Last Friday the Public Health Agency of Canada (CFIA) announced 26 E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario linked to shredded lettuce distributed by FreshPoint Inc. served primarily at KFC and Taco Bell restaurants.  FreshPoint Toronto has recalled shredded iceberg lettuce.  The CFIA has traced the lettuce to California to an unnamed grower.  CFIA has notified U.S. authorities of this finding.

Sound familiar?

In August 2012 the CFIA isolated E. coli O157:H7 in a sample of Grower A romaine lettuce collected on August 8, 2012.  This finding prompted CFIA to issue a “Health Hazard Alert” notice on August 17, 2012 warning the public to not consume Grower A brand Romaine lettuce, UPC 0 27918 20314 9.[1]  The alert was expanded to include additional distribution information on August 20, 2012.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration posted a notice that on August 19 Grower A was recalling “Wrapped Single Head Romaine.”[2] Genetic testing by Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) identified the strain of E. coli O157:H7 found in the Grower A sample as “ECXA1.1775/ECBN1.0012.” This was a rare strain, not seen in Canada since 2009. The CFIA announcement noted that there had been “no reported illnesses associated with consumption of this product.”  Unfortunately, this assessment would prove to be tragically incorrect.  Two Canadians – a person in Ontario and a person in Alberta were identified as being infected with strain ECXA1.1775/ECBN1.0012.  An Alberta resident identified as being a genetic match to the E. coli O157:H7 strain found in Grower A Romaine lettuce.

The causal link between the Alberta resident’s E. coli O157:H7 and grower A Romaine Lettuce is clear.  The CFIA isolated E. coli O157:H7 strain  ECXA1.1775/ECBN1.0012 in a sample of Grower A romaine lettuce.  This finding prompted a recall of Grower A brand Romaine lettuce, UPC 0 27918 20314 9.  Grower A brand Romaine lettuce, UPC 0 27918 20314 9 was found in the Albert resident’s home and she was known to consume romaine lettuce often.

On August 23, 2012, the Alberta resident experienced onset of vomiting and diarrhea.  Her stool specimen collected at Rockyview General Hospital on August 26 was culture positive for E. coli O157:H7.  Genetic testing by PFGE showed that the Alberta resident was infected with E. coli O157:H7 strain ECXA1.1775/ECBN1.0012.  The Alberta resident also developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  Additional documentation from FDA and CFIA can be found – 1, 2, 3 and 4.

And, it is not like California leafy greens have not caused E. coli O157:H7 problems with our neighbors to the North several times before:

  • April 2012: 18 ill with E. coli O157:H7 from romaine lettuce in Canada and California from Amazing Coachella out of California.

It will be interesting if the unnamed grower will be named, and if so, when?