Romaine lettuce back in N.L. stores after E. coli scare, but health agency still cautious

The Public Health Agency of Canada is still recommending people consider other types of lettuce as it continues the investigation into an E. coli outbreak in five Canadian provinces.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says no lettuce has tested positive for E. coli to date

Romaine lettuce was found to be in stock at Dominion, Colemans, and Sobeys stores in St. John's on Wednesday. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

People looking to kick start their New Year's resolutions with some leafy greens can now find romaine lettuce back on the shelves at many stores across Newfoundland and Labrador.

But the Public Health Agency of Canada is still recommending people consider eating other types of lettuce as it continues to investigate an E. coli outbreak in five Canadian provinces. 

Health Canada has identified 41 cases across five provinces, including one death, since late November and early December. 

Thirteen of the infections have been in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The latest update from the agency, posted Dec. 28, said the investigation has led it to believe there is a continued risk of E. coli infection through romaine lettuce consumption. 

However, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the department testing the lettuce, said none of it has tested positive for E. coli to date.

In stock at stores in St. John's

On Wednesday, romaine lettuce was in stock and plentiful at Colemans, Dominion, and Sobeys stores in St. John's. 

A sign at Sobeys on Merrymeeting Road dated Dec. 29 said the store was resuming sales of the lettuce after being satisfied with the progress of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's investigation.

A notice posted at the Sobeys on Merrymeeting Road in St. John's says the store is resuming selling lettuce. (Mike Rossiter/CBC)

In a statement, Sobeys head office confirmed the organization has resumed sales of romaine lettuce nationally after pulling the product from store shelves on Dec. 21. 

Officials said they are following the updates from the CFIA and PHAC and that Sobeys will continue to stay close to the investigation as further updates are released.

A spokesperson from Loblaws said that the company is actively monitoring the investigation and if the products are recalled, the organization will immediately remove and dispose of them.

Jim Cormier, spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada, said it's up to individual retailers to decide whether to stock the product.

"We take our lead from CFIA, so all of the testing that was done over a two-week period has indicated that there was nothing detected in the samples that they analyzed, and therefore retailers are taking that as their lead to decide individually whether or not they wish to stock that product on their shelves," he said.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials said if a specific product is identified as a risk to consumers, they will issue a food recall warning to the public.

About the Author

Andrew Sampson

Andrew Sampson is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.

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