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Avoid eating romaine lettuce due to E. coli warning

Residents in Ontario and eastern provinces are advised to avoid eating romaine lettuce due to E. coli warning issued by Health Canada.

As many as 40 cases of infections – one fatal – have been linked to contaminated romaine lettuce. More than a dozen people ranging in age from four to 85 have been hospitalized – eight cases in Ontario. Individuals are also being warned in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Health officials are advising people consider consuming other types of lettuce until more is known about the outbreak – that includes not ordering romaine lettuce in restaurants and fast food chains.

E. coli bacteria lives naturally in the intestines of cattle, poultry and other animals. Fruits and vegetables can become contaminated if they come into contact with the feces from infected animals. Most E. coli strains are harmless to humans, but some varietys cause illness. Most people with an E. coli infection will become ill for a few days, then fully recover.

The following food safety tips for lettuce will help you reduce your risk of getting an E. coli infection:

– Wash your hands throughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, before and after handling lettuce.
– Discard outer leaves of fresh lettuce.
– Wash your unpackaged lettuce under fresh, cool running water. There is no need to use anything other than water to wash lettuce. Keep rinsing until all dirt is washed away.
– Don’t soak lettuce in a sink full of water as it can become contaminated by bacteria in the sink.
– Ready-to-eat lettuce products sold in sealed packages and labelled as washed or triple-washed do not need to be washed again.
– Use warm water and soap to wash all utensils, countertops and cutting boards before and after handling lettuce to avoid cross-contamination.
– Store lettuce in the refrigerator for up to seven days.

Symptons of E. coli can appear within one to 10 days and include nausea, vomiting, headache, mild fever, severe stomach cramps, watery or bloody diarrhea.

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