CDC is investigating an E. coli outbreak affecting 13 states, including Pennsylvania

CDC: Romaine lettuce may be behind E. coli outbreak

Everyone should temporarily stay away from eating romaine lettuce until health officials can figure out the source of a number of E.coli infections that are thought to be caused by eating the lettuce, Consumer Reports warns.

Seventeen people have been hospitalized and one person has died.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not yet identified the cause of the 17 illnesses and one death reported in the United States, but said last week that the strain of virus found in both countries-E. coli O157:H7-is the same.

The Public Health Agency of Canada identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak there, according to the CDC.

Canadian health officials have stopped short of ordering a recall of romaine lettuce until more is known about the cause of contamination.

"[To] say 'avoid romaine for now, ' I don't know if I have enough information to agree with that statement", said Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University. But it's still a good idea to avoid the leafy green for now, whether it's sold fresh or in pre-packaged salad mixes.

Instead, they are advising consumers in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador "to consider consuming other types of lettuce, instead of romaine lettuce". "It could be that there's a different [food] source of this exact same pathogen", he said.

The CDC says it is unable to recommend whether people should avoid a particular food while the source of the outbreak is still under investigation. Then, the CDC will do the same with a group of healthy people and determine whether there are certain foods that the ill people were more likely to eat, compared with healthy people, Chapman said.

Neither the USA nor Canadian health officials have provided information on where the suspect romaine lettuce was grown or processed.

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