|Government of Canada actions in response to the food safety alerts concerning E. coli O157:H7 in romaine lettuce issued by the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration
November 22, 2019
The Government of Canada’s food safety partners (Canadian Food Inspection Agency [CFIA], Public Health Agency of Canada [PHAC], and Health Canada [HC]) have been monitoring the United States’ investigation into the current outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in romaine lettuce and are aware of the new information shared by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) with respect to the investigation.
The CDC’s alert and the US FDA’s recommendation, indicates that preliminary trace back information points to romaine lettuce harvested in the Salinas growing region of California as the potential source of the outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that has resulted in multiple illnesses in the United States and one isolated illness in Canada.
Food safety is our top priority. The Government of Canada, working in collaboration with industry, is taking the following immediate actions to assure Canadians that the produce they buy and consume remains safe:
- CFIA is advising distributors, importers, restaurants, retailers, and institutions not to distribute, import, sell, serve, or use romaine lettuce, and products containing romaine lettuce, harvested in the Salinas growing region of California, as identified in the US FDA’s statement due to potential contamination of E. coli O157:H7, until further notice;
- CFIA is implementing additional control measures to verify that products from the areas identified in the U.S. FDA’s investigation are not being imported into Canada;
- Romaine lettuce produced in Canada is safe to eat. Consumers should verify where the product came from before consuming;
- The Public Health Agency of Canada issued a Public Health Notice to Canadians.
The CFIA continues to sample produce through its enhanced microbiological surveillance programs for imported fresh vegetables and salads. Samples from these programs are analyzed for pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7 . Romaine lettuce and pre-packaged salads containing romaine lettuce are included within this surveillance program. To date, targeted testing of some 270 samples of leafy greens (including imported romaine lettuce) have been tested and E. coli O157:H7 has not been detected in any of these samples.
CFIA’s food safety investigation into the source of the lettuce consumed by the affected person in Canada is still underway; information on Canadian trace back activities is shared with the investigation’s partners, including PHAC, Health Canada, and the US authorities, to assist with their respective follow-up activities.
As noted by the US FDA, at this time, romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Salinas region has not been implicated in this outbreak investigation. Additionally, hydroponically and greenhouse-grown romaine does not appear to be related to the current outbreak and is safe to eat.
Please follow the advice in the Public Health Notice regarding the consumption of lettuce that is currently in the marketplace or in your home. The Government of Canada is committed to keeping Canadians informed as more information becomes available.
Please note that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) has been updated to reflect new restrictions on romaine lettuce originating from the state of California.
Willson International is following the developments and will provide additional information as it becomes available.