E. coli warning: don't eat romaine lettuce from Salinas, California
MONTREAL -- The Public Health Agency of Canada on Friday warned Canadians to avoid consuming romaine lettuce from Salinas, a region in California.
American authorities are investigating an outbreak of E. Coli in romaine lettuce from the Salinas region, and the Canadian agency confirmed that the lettuce from that region is imported to Canada this time of year.
"Although an outbreak is not occurring in Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified one Canadian illness with a similar genetic fingerprint to illnesses reported in the U.S. investigation," the agency noted in a press release on Friday.
As a consequence, the Public Health Agency of Canada is asking Canadians to avoid consuming, selling or serving romaine lettuce from the region.
The warning does not concern lettuce grown in Canada.
"Leafy greens, such as lettuce, can become contaminated in the field by soil, water, animals or improperly composted manure," the agency noted. "Lettuce can also be contaminated by bacteria during and after harvest from handling, storing and transporting the produce. Contamination in lettuce is also possible at the grocery store, in the refrigerator, or from counters and cutting boards through cross-contamination with harmful bacteria from raw meat, poultry or seafood."
E. Coli is bacteria that, if consumed, can cause serious, life-threatening illness, the agency warned. Most E. Coli strains are harmless to humans, but some varieties cause illness.
What to do with romaine lettuce (according to the Public Health Agency of Canada):
If you have romaine lettuce at home:
- If the packaging shows that it is from the Salinas, California growing region in the U.S., don’t eat it. Throw it away.
- If it isn’t labeled with a growing region, don’t eat it. Throw it away.
- If you don’t know whether the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, don’t eat it. Throw it away. Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine lettuce was stored.
If you buy romaine lettuce at a store:
- If the packaging shows that it is from the Salinas, California growing region in the U.S., don’t buy it.
- If it is an unpackaged product, ask the retailer whether the romaine lettuce comes from the Salinas, California growing region in the U.S.
- If you can’t confirm that the romaine lettuce in stores is not from the Salinas, California growing region in the U.S., don’t buy it.
- Restaurants and retailers should check the label on bags or boxes of romaine lettuce, or ask their suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce.
- Suppliers, distributors and others in the supply chain should not ship or sell romaine harvested in the Salinas, California growing region in the U.S.
With files from the Canadian Press