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.
"Even though we can't say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the USA, a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is nearly always consumed raw", James Rogers, director of food safety and research at Consumer Reports, said in a press release.
Canada and the US reported 58 infections, 22 hospitalizations and two deaths from the current outbreak, but only Canada has warned their consumers of a possible food vehicle - romaine lettuce. Consumers there are no longer being advised to avoid eating romaine lettuce.
In Canada, 42 people were sickened and one person died.
Pressure had been mounting on the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide more information to the public about this outbreak. "Right now the CDC is saying it could be other leafy greens, but until we have more corroborating evidence, we continue to think it prudent to avoid romaine lettuce for now".
Romaine lettuce has a shelf life of about a few days to more than a week.
With the investigation ongoing the CDC is not recommending people avoid any particular food at this time. They include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.
In her letter, the Democrat asked CDC to clarify the coordination between Canada and the US health authorities on the outbreak, and report any information CDC may have on "implicated suppliers, distributors or retailers". Nine of those people have been hospitalized, two of whom are suffering from a form of kidney failure. Currently, no common supplier, distributor, or retailer of leafy greens has been identified as a possible source of the outbreak.
He said the illness onsets "occurred in late Nov & early Dec, so the source of these cases likely is no longer on the market".
People usually get sick from this particular strain of E. coli three to four days after eating contaminated food.
On Wednesday, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced it was no longer advising the public against eating romaine lettuce. Rinsing produce with cool water is a good way to protect against any bacteria lingering on the surface - though not a surefire solution to product contamination. There has been one death, which was previously reported.
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