Vancouver Island grocery stores tossing U.S.-grown romaine lettuce amid E. coli scare


WATCH: Canadian health officials don’t believe an E. coli outbreak from romaine lettuce has spread to B.C. but many local grocery stores aren’t taking any chances. April Lawrence reports.

Shoppers on Vancouver Island may have to choose a different kind of lettuce for their salad in the days ahead because many local grocery stores are tossing romaine from their shelves.

“Right away we pulled all of the romaine products from our shelves in produce, in deli, our salads and our sandwiches,” said Country Grocer Royal Oak General manager Craig Cavin.

That’s because the government has issued a public health notice due to an outbreak of E. coli. But there is no recall, and only people in Quebec and Ontario, where 18 illnesses have been recorded, are being told to toss their produce.

“There was no recall issued but we went ahead and pulled it just to be safe rather than sorry of course,” said Cavin.

If you do have romaine lettuce at home, and you live outside of Quebec and Ontario, all health officials are recommending you do is rip off the outer leaves, wash it under cold water and then rinse any surfaces it touched with warm water and soap.

But in the United States, where 32 people in 11 states have gotten sick, the Centers for Disease Control have issued an urgent alert.

“If you have it in your home, go ahead and throw it away. If you go to the store to do some shopping, make sure you’re not buying any romaine,” said Laura Gieraltowski with the CDC Foodborne Outbreak Response Team.

That’s because this strain of E. coli, 0157, tends to make more people sick than others. And it can’t actually be washed off.

“Not only does it produce a diarrheal disease but it can produce a toxin that involves the kidneys so you can get subsequent kidney failure,” said Dr. William Schaffner with Vanderbilt University.

This is the same strain responsible for a similar romaine warning a year ago. That outbreak was eventually traced to Arizona. This time officials haven’t been able yet to track the source, although in Canada no new cases have been reported since the end of October.

For now the only romaine you’ll find in Country Grocer is in the back room cooler, where it is waiting to be tossed.

If you bought some recently, Cavin says bring it back and they’ll give you a refund.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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