November 23, 2018 3:59 pm
Updated: November 23, 2018 4:11 pm

22 people sickened by E. coli in romaine lettuce, Canadian officials say

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The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified four new cases of E. coli related to romaine lettuce since it first announced an investigation into the problem on Wednesday.

The agency announced the new cases at a press briefing on Friday afternoon. One of the new cases was in New Brunswick and the rest were in Ontario and Quebec. This brings the total number of cases to 22.

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Four cases of this particular strain of E. coli:0157 were in Ontario, 17 in Quebec, and one in New Brunswick. The new cases all occurred in late October and early November – the same time period as the other illnesses.

READ MORE: N.B. E. coli case linked to romaine lettuce

PHAC first warned people in Ontario and Quebec not to eat romaine lettuce on Wednesday, and they now have the same advice for people in New Brunswick. They also suggest that people in these provinces throw out the lettuce if they have any at home, and wash and sterilize all containers and refrigerator shelves and drawers that have come into contact with the produce.

READ MORE: Romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak prompts warning for areas of Canada, entire U.S.

Officials say that there is no evidence so far that people in other provinces are at risk.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has not issued a recall on romaine lettuce and it is still investigating the exact source of the outbreak. Although many people have reported eating romaine lettuce and the CFIA believes the problems are related to the lettuce, none of the lettuce they have tested so far has shown signs of E. coli.

READ MORE: Public Health says it’s not safe to eat romaine lettuce in Ontario and Quebec. So why isn’t it being recalled?

While CFIA noted in the press briefing that lettuce has a relatively short shelf life, Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer of Canada, said that people may still have lettuce at home, and that’s why health officials are asking Canadians to throw it out.

The outbreak might also have been more than a single bad batch, he suggested, and there could be an ongoing source of contamination.

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Given the early October onset of the first illnesses reported, the tainted romaine in all likelihood originated from California, which ranks as the leading producer of American lettuce, U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokesman Peter Cassell told Reuters on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Major grocery chains pulling romaine lettuce from Canadian stores in response to E. coli warning

CFIA has increased its testing of romaine lettuce in response to the outbreak, according to Dr. Aline Dimitri, deputy chief food safety officer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has also issued a warning, saying that all Americans should refrain from eating romaine lettuce, and throw it out if they have any at home.

Symptoms of E. coli infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramping and vomiting, and it usually resolves in a few days. However, some people can develop serious or life-threatening complications. If you develop any of these symptoms after eating romaine lettuce, you should contact a health professional, officials said.

–With a file from Reuters

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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