About E. coli

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About E. coli Blog

Lettuce Pray the E. coli Outbreak Over

The FDA and the CDC, along with state and local health officials, have been investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infections likely linked to leafy greens. There were 25 cases in 15 states; California (4), Connecticut (2), Illinois (1), Indiana (2), Maryland (3), Michigan (1), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (1), New York (2), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (2), Vermont (1), Virginia (1), and Washington (1).

Illness onsets were between November 5 and December 12, 2017. Among the 21ill people for whom CDC has information, nine were hospitalized, including one person in California who died. Two people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

Since the outbreak was identified, the FDA has been working with CDC and state and local partners on the investigation. The FDA’s role in outbreaks of this nature is to utilize food consumption information gained from interviews with people who got sick, trace those foods back through the distribution chain to the original source, and attempt to identify the source and route of contamination.

In Canada, as of January 10, 2018, there were 42 cases of E. coli O157 illness reported in five eastern provinces: Ontario (8), Quebec (15), New Brunswick (5), Nova Scotia (1), and Newfoundland and Labrador (13). Individuals became sick in November and early December 2017. Seventeen individuals were hospitalized. One individual died. Individuals who became ill were between the ages of 3 and 85 years of age. The majority of cases (74%) were female. There is no evidence to suggest that provinces in western Canada were affected by this outbreak.

Most of the individuals who became sick reported eating romaine lettuce before their illnesses occurred. Individuals reported eating romaine lettuce at home, as well as in prepared salads purchased at grocery stores, restaurants and fast food chains. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency worked with public health officials to determine the source of the romaine lettuce that ill individuals were exposed to. As part of the food safety investigation into the source of contamination, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency tested romaine lettuce for the presence of E. coli. All food samples have tested negative and no source of contamination has been identified.

The FDA has been in regular contact with Canadian health authorities to share information about the traceback investigation. The FDA’s investigation team has also reviewed information from previous outbreaks to see if there are any commonalities between those and the current outbreak. To date, no common leafy green grower source has been identified.

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