Romaine lettuce linked to deadly E. coli outbreak

Avoid eating romaine lettuce until U.S. health officials determine the source of an outbreak of E. coli that has made 58 people sick in the U.S. and Canada, cautions Consumer Reports.

The consumer advocacy group urged the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to send a stronger message to warn people about the dangerous outbreak.

The outbreak started on dates from Nov. 15 through Dec. 8, according to the CDC. Five people in the U.S. have been hospitalized and one has died, according to the CDC. In Canada, 41 cases have been reported and one person has died.

Along with New York, a dozen other affected states include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and Washington.

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E. coli cases and food poisoning
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E. coli cases and food poisoning
BOSTON - AUGUST 23: Colony of E. coli cells are grown in the synthetic biology lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston on Tuesday, August 23 2011. (Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
ELIOT, ME - MAY 26: Kyler Dove, a seventh grader at Marshwood Middle School in Eliot, stops to take a drink from one of the 11,520 water bottles donated to the school Tuesday, May 26, 2015 by Cumberland Farms. Home Depot and Hannaford have also made donations to the school as it manages the current E coli scare. (Photo by Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - MAY 23: A shopper looks for bottled water on nearly empty shelves at a New Seasons Supermarket May 23, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. Oregon health officials ordered Portland to issue a boil-water alert after three separate samples tested positive for E. coli, a bacterium that can cause severe gastrointestinal illness. (Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images)
Jack Kurtz, 10, right, and mother Paula Gillett pose for portrait in their Rockford, Illinois home, November 5, 2009. Jack recovered from a food-borne illness last year. The source of the E. coli that hospitalized him was never determined. (Photo by Lane Christiansen/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
Madison Sedbrook, 6, right, and her mother Cindy are in their home at Highlands Ranch on Tuesday. Madison's parents are suing because she got e coli from eating raw cookie dough recalled by Nestle. Hyoung Chang/ The Denver Post (Photo By Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - FEBRUARY 21: A BJ's Wholesale Club awaits customers on February 21, 2007 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Yesterday, the giant wholesaler announced a voluntary recall of prepackaged Wellsley Farms mushrooms, due to possible trace amounts of E.coli. No cases of the illness have been reported. (Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)
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The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak, but the CDC is still investigating whether the leafy green is the culprit.

"Because we have not identified a source of the infections, CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food. This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available," the CDC website notes.

There are alternative greens until there’s conclusive evidence.

“Even though we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is almost always consumed raw,” said James Rogers, Ph.D., Director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports in their report.

This strain of E. coli produces a toxin that can lead to serious illness, kidney problems and even death.

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