People in Ontario and Quebec should not eat novelty lettuce, even if they buy it in a grocery store or serve in a restaurant, the Canadian Public Health Agency (PHAC) said.
However, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has not issued a notification for marinated lettuce, which means that despite the danger that E.coli is serious enough to warn people in Ontario and Quebec not to eat lettuce there. This is because researchers are not yet able to identify a specific product responsible for the outbreak, said CFIA.
The largest food chains in Canada entered in their own hands, such as Metro, Loblaw and Sobeys, and Walmart Canada confirmed on Wednesday that Roma lettuce is no longer sold in stores throughout the country.
Some criticize the government's decision to issue a public health alert without recalling a blanket for Roma lettuce.
"In one public health it takes responsibility, and in the other, the consumer assumes responsibility and the retailers," says Keith Warrin, professor of food safety at Güell University.
"This literally simply detracts from the responsibility that is not good."
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon PHAC said that the outbreak of the disease seems to continue and that infected Roma lettuce still may be on the market.
On November 20, there were 18 confirmed cases of E. coli in Canada related to lettuce, six of which were sent to a hospital. One person suffered from hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a severe complication that could lead to life-threatening kidney failure.
PHAC said there was no data showing that people outside Ontario and Quebec were at risk. The US authorities also warned people in the United States to stop eating roma lettuce.
This is a potentially serious health problem, according to Xian Wang, an associate professor of food safety at the University of British Columbia. "We know that in some cases there may be very serious complications such as kidney failure, and in the worst case scenario there will be deaths, but we have not seen it yet in this particular epidemic."
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the agency is still investigating the source of the outbreak. "If a specific brand and / or source of Roma lettuce or other product is identified in the investigation, the CFIA will take appropriate action," the agency said in a statement. This may include seizure.
But they have not yet found a source. "Neither Canadian nor US food safety investigations have been able to identify a specific product that is causing concern in the Canadian or American markets." All products tested as part of the investigation have been negative so far. "
According to Wang, in most food safety studies, patients are first tested to see whether they have the same E. coli strain, indicating whether the cases are related. They are then interviewed about their eating habits. What they say is compared to the average diet, so, for example, if more patients report eating Romans lettuce than most people, then Roma lettuce is a potential culprit. Of course, she said, investigators should find lettuce with the same strain of E. coli.
WATCH: CDC warns of Romani lettuce contamination with E. coli
Warringer admits that the withdrawal would be devastating to the industry, and in one case American tomato paste producers have filed a lawsuit against the authorities because they have wrongly said that a salmonella outbreak of tomato is actually associated with chili peppers. However, he said, issuing a warning against lettuce has almost the same result of sales.
– They must be very careful about finger markers. If you point your finger at a company and turn out to be wrong, you have ravaged this company. No one will buy them, "he said.
But "At one point they have to say," We are responsible for public health. This is in our title. "