Health Officials Advise Avoiding Romaine Lettuce

Last year some 41 cases of E.coli 0157 were investigated, so far with this outbreak they are investigating 18 cases in Canada and another 32 in the US. That’s a total of 50 cases and 3 of them are in Ontario. There is also currently no way of telling what the exact source of the contamination is and so a specific recall is not being issued and instead a blanket warning is being given.



Under normal circumstances, health officials advise that the following precautions be taken:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, before and after handling lettuce.
  • Unwashed lettuce, including whole heads of lettuce sold in sealed bags, should be handled and washed using these steps:
    • Discard outer leaves of fresh lettuce.
    • Wash unpackaged lettuce under fresh, cool running water. There is no need to use anything other than water to wash lettuce. Washing it gently with water is as effective as using produce cleansers.
    • Keep rinsing your lettuce until all of the dirt has been washed away.
    • Don’t soak lettuce in a sink full of water. It can become contaminated by bacteria in the sink.
    • Store lettuce in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Discard when leaves become wilted or brown.
  • Use warm water and soap to thoroughly wash all utensils, countertops, cutting boards and storage containers before and after handling lettuce to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Ready-to-eat lettuce products sold in sealed packages and labelled as washed, pre-washed or triple washed do not need to be washed again. These products should also be refrigerated and used before the expiration date.


But right now, with E. coli O157 around, people shouldn’t take any risks, in fact, the Public Health Agency of Canada states Individuals in Ontario and Quebec should avoid eating romaine lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce until more is known about the outbreak and the cause of contamination.


People infected with E. coli can have a wide range of symptoms which can appear within one to ten days. Some do not get sick at all, though they can still spread the infection to others. Others may feel as though they have a bad case of upset stomach. In some cases, individuals become seriously ill and must be hospitalized. Most symptoms end within five to ten days. There is no real treatment for E. coli infections, other than monitoring the illness, providing comfort, and preventing dehydration through proper hydration and nutrition. People who develop complications may need further treatment, like dialysis for kidney failure. You should contact your health care provider if symptoms persist.


Given the virulent nature of the strain involved in this outbreak it really is best if all romaine lettuce is avoided for the time being. Keep an eye on the situation for updates here.


Information from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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