Romaine lettuce is a bad choice right now, health agencies warn

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The outbreak, which began in November previous year, has been linked to 24 cases of people infected with E. coli and one death in California.

The Public Health Agency of Canada reported that "no individual has become ill after December 12, 2017".

This is about the same timing of an outbreak of E. coli in Canada, which health officials declared over on Wednesday.

But today, the Centers for Disease Control says that a Consumer Reports story last week advising people to avoid romaine lettuce was too quick to pinpoint that particular ingredient as the culprit.

"The likely source of the outbreak in the United States appears to be leafy greens, but officials have not specifically identified a type of leafy greens eaten by people who became ill", the CDC said Wednesday. CDC continues to work with regulatory partners in several states, at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to identify the source. "CDC confirmed the outbreak on December 28-almost a month and a half after the first infection", said DeLauro.

"Without knowing exactly what caused this outbreak, we risk seeing a new batch of tainted product come onto the market", he said.

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While Canada declared the outbreak in that country over on Wednesday, Ian Williams, chief of the CDC's Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch said it was a little more hard for the U.S.to make that call.

Cases by state is as follows: California (4), CT (2), IL (1), IN (2), Maryland (3), MI (1), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (1), NY (1), OH (1), Pennsylvania (2), Vermont (1), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). Nine of those people have been hospitalized, two of whom are suffering from a form of kidney failure. Of 13 people interviewed, all 13 reported eating leafy greens.

To be on the safe side, Consumer Reports suggests throwing out any romaine lettuce you may have in your fridge.

That brings the total number of cases involving E. coli to 66 in the recent outbreak in the USA and Canada.

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that the STEC O157:H7 strain from ill people in the United States is closely related genetically to the STEC O157:H7 strain from ill people in Canada. "Right now the CDC is saying it could be other leafy greens, but until we have more corroborating evidence, we continue to think it prudent to avoid romaine lettuce for now". They include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Another problem with E. coli infection is that it can contaminate the food at any stage of its production. Rinsing produce with cool water is a good way to protect against any bacteria lingering on the surface - though not a surefire solution to product contamination.

For the record, symptoms of E. coli begin two to eight days after consuming the bacteria, notes CNN.

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