Additional Communication Regarding E. coli Outbreak in Romaine Lettuce

On Tuesday, November 20, 2018, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released a notice regarding an ongoing outbreak of E. coli O157 H7 related to romaine lettuce. The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States have also issued statements about the outbreak.

1.    Why is CDC recommending all romaine consumption be stopped but PHAC is limiting it to Ontario and Quebec?

o   CDC and PHAC are in regular communication regarding potential and ongoing outbreak issues, but their public statements are tailored specifically for the countries in which they have jurisdiction. The PHAC advice to consumers is predicated on the distribution of confirmed cases within Canada which is currently limited only to Ontario and Quebec. The CDC statement would have been tailored to the perceived risk their investigation uncovered and, in this case, it includes the entire United States.

2.    Where was romaine lettuce sourced from during the outbreak?

o   The most likely source of the implicated romaine is one of the California growing areas.

3.    Where is the romaine lettuce currently being sourced from?

o   Romaine lettuce is currently being sourced from the southern United States and Mexico. More specifically, the current source area for Romaine lettuce is the Yuma growing region, which incorporates Southwest Arizona, Northeast Baja California (Mexico) and the Southeast Imperial Valley of California. The Imperial Valley is a geographically distinct area separated from the rest of California's growing regions

4.    What is our industry doing to determine the source of recent problems and to ensure these outbreaks do not occur in the future?

o   PHAC, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and U.S. regulatory bodies are actively investigating and tracing the source of the contamination in Romaine lettuce, to identify the specific source of contamination. These organizations will continue to monitor the site and are working with industry to ensure the safety of product grown in these sites in the future. Members of the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreements (LGMA) of California and Arizona are collaborating with food safety experts, academia and government to develop improved methods of growing, harvesting and processing romaine lettuce to continuously lower the risks associated with the product.

5.    What are the signs and symptoms of an E. coli infection?

o   E. coli symptoms may include: vomiting, headache, mild fever, severe stomach cramps and watery or bloody diarrhea. In extreme cases, it may cause a condition known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome which can destroy the kidneys. For more information, please reference the PHAC notice or PHAC E. coli information link.

6.    What should a consumer do if they suspect they may have an E. coli infection?

o   In most cases healthy individuals will recover from an E coli infection in a week or so. During that time they should avoid any food preparation, practice good personal hygiene habits and rest. Individuals who are in a high-risk category (i.e. pregnant, immune compromised, elderly, very young or dealing with a chronic condition) should seek immediate medical attention from their primary healthcare provider or via emergency services.

7.    How long will this outbreak last?

o   It is unknown how long the current outbreak will last, but industry will follow the government's recommendations and take steps to ensure consumers can have confidence in the foods they purchase and consume. No additional cases of E. coli infection in Canada relating to romaine lettuce have been confirmed by the Public Health Agency of Canada after the week of October 28th – November 3rd, 2018.

General Points on Food Safety

  • We value the health of Canadians and the global community above all else.
  • We are committed to supporting the highest food safety standards along all steps of the produce supply chain.
  • CPMA is continuing to monitor the current situation and will update members immediately as any new developments are known.
  • CPMA remains in close contact with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)/Health Canada, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and colleagues in other fresh produce associations impacted by the outbreak.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables remain an essential part of a healthy diet.

For any questions, please contact : 
Marie de Tarlé
Executive Assistant and Public Affairs
QPMA (Quebec Produce Marketing Association)
(+1) 514 355-4330 -

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