STEC O157 outbreak sickens 66 and kills two in USA and Canada

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The last reported illness in the United States was on December 12, suggesting that the risk of buying food contaminated in the current outbreak had passed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement on Wednesday. In Canada there are 42 victims across five provinces.

Consumer Reports has not yet announced an end to it's warning. Two people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

But U.S. health authorities have said it's too early to blame leafy greens as the probe continues. That's an increase of seven illnesses since the initial report of the outbreak on December 28, 2017. Consumer Reports still warned against eating romaine.

PHAC said "most" of the sick people ate romaine lettuce before illnesses either at home or in prepared salads from grocery stores, restaurants and fast food chains.

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The cases occurring in both the USA and Canada are of the same strain and appear to share a , but the CDC said this was not sufficient data to prove a link.

In Canada, health officials now say the outbreak appears to be over. Canada identified romaine lettuce as the source of illnesses there, but the source of the romaine lettuce or where it became contaminated is unknown.

In a news release issued earlier on Wednesday, the CDC said the "likely source" of the outbreak in the US appeared to be "leafy greens", but unlike in Canada, officials had not identified a specific type.

Industry, watchdog reactionsThe statements today spurred very different reactions from produce industry groups and consumer advocates. In the United States, however, health officials are continuing to investigate an outbreak of 24 STEC O157:H7 infections in 15 states. "We're working closely with partners to identify that source", Gottlieb said.

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"Based on these statements, both governments have concluded that the food responsible for this foodborne illness outbreak is no longer in the market". Food safety advocates there "continue to think it prudent to avoid romaine lettuce for now", according to Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union. Based on this information, USA health officials concluded that ill people in this outbreak were not more likely than healthy people to have eaten romaine lettuce.

Health officials, Behm said, take action when there is clear and convincing information linking illness to a contaminated food.

"This is a unsafe strain of E. coli that can cause severe illness and even death", said Halloran's statement.

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