An outbreak of E. coli in late 2017 left 26 people significantly ill and 2 people dead. An investigation by Canadian authorities linked the bacteria to Romaine lettuce, and the CDC simply took the report at face value and closed their own investigation despite differences in the bacterial strains between the US and Canadian outbreaks.
Determining the source of E. coli contamination is extremely important, as different sources are linked to higher and lower degrees of antibiotic resistance. E. coli associated with poultry factories are more likely to evidence resistance to treatment. Knowing this ahead of time, doctors can be more aggressive with other forms of treatment, recognizing that traditional forms of antibiotics might be less effective.
Despite significant investment by the government and private industries, eradicating E. coli contamination from the United States’ food supply has proved impossible. As more and more cases have been linked to vegetables and fruit, even the old disease vectors of undercooked beef and poultry have needed to be re-evaluated.
Salad items such as lettuce and tomatoes can have a higher likelihood of causing E. coli infection because few people cook lettuce before eating it. Lettuce is the base of salads, which are usually served cool or cold. Cool and cold has little effect on the E. coli bacteria, allowing it to remain alive and infect the person who eats the food.
If you or someone you love has suffered due to an E. coli infection, tracing it to its source is important. Not only can this help with long-term treatment, identifying the cause of the infection can minimize the risk of future outbreaks from the same source. The food industry needs to take responsibility for the safety of its products, and holding them accountable is the first step towards making that happen.