Twenty four Canadians had to deal with the symptoms of E.coli after eating romaine lettuce. Soon after consuming the lettuce they had headaches and mild fever. Eight of them were hospitalized, but the situation remains difficult, since antibiotics can’t be used for E. coli O157.
Last year something similar happened with 48 Canadians from Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario. One of them died, and seventeen were hospitalized. Researchers are trying to put a stop to this, and this time they might have luck. They discovered a DNA fingerprint match for the two outbreaks.
“To actually get the same strain, associated with the same produce, at the same time of year, when you say lightning strikes twice, that’s exactly what it is,” explained Keith Warriner, a food science professor at the University of Guelph.
At the moment it is believed that cattle are the original source, although scientists can’t be perfectly sure.
“It’s pretty good evidence it’s the same source. The question is what is that source?” added Lawrence Goodridge, a food safety scientist at McGill University.
Dangerous E.coli strain
Ever since 1982, there have been numerous outbreaks caused by this dangerous E.coli strain. The worst part is that it affects supposedly healthy food such as spinach, lettuce and similar products.
“There’s no way that, as far as I’m concerned, somebody should get sick for doing something that is not dangerous,” said Goodridge. “It’s both nothing to panic about but at the same time it’s something we have to urgently work on.”
It appears that testing the food is not the solution for this problem. Experts believed that the traceability of food should be the one that is improved in the future.
“For practical purposes right now it’s difficult to test all foods rigorously because even small amounts of contamination can cause serious illness,” said Herb Schellhorn, a biology professor who researches E. coli at McMaster University.