Manitoba

Romaine still on Red River Co-op shelves as other Winnipeg stores pull it, fearing E. coli outbreak

Canada's public health agency says it has not received reports of anyone in Manitoba falling ill from a recent E.coli outbreak in the country. But it won't say whether or not romaine lettuce is safe for Manitobans to eat.

No evidence Manitoba is affected, but U of M expert advises shoppers to steer clear

Shopper Bob Weidman says he'll switch from romaine until the advisory in other provinces is lifted. The Public Health Agency of Canada won't say whether or not romaine lettuce is safe for Manitobans to eat. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it has not received reports of anyone in Manitoba falling ill from a recent E. coli outbreak in the country.

But it won't say whether or not romaine lettuce is safe for Manitobans to eat.

"There is currently no evidence to suggest that residents outside of the three affected provinces are affected by this outbreak," spokesperson Anna Maddison wrote in an email to CBC News, when asked whether Manitobans should be consuming it.

Nineteen people in Canada have become sick after consuming romaine lettuce.

Originally, the federal government only issued the warning for residents in Ontario and Quebec, where E. coli cases were confirmed. However, the advisory was expanded on Wednesday to include New Brunswick after an additional infection was reported there.

Manitoba is not included in an advisory about potential E. coli in romaine lettuce. Despite this, many stores in Winnipeg have pulled romaine from their shelves as a precaution. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Even though Manitoba hasn't been affected yet, Winnipeg shopper Rilla Edwards says for her, it's not worth the risk.

"I think one should just avoid romaine for a while. It's my favourite lettuce. I use it all the time. It's a staple in the house. [But] I'm looking for an alternative for a few weeks," Edwards said.

Shopper Bob Weidman says he's surprised to see romaine still on his grocery store's shelves at all.

"I don't know why it's here," he said.

Both Weidman and Edwards were shopping at Red River Co-op — one of the only stores in Winnipeg still selling romaine on Thursday.

Romaine lettuce is still for sale at Red River Co-op grocery stores. The vice-president of food operations says they've been told it is safe to sell. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Red River Co-op said it plans to continue to offer the lettuce.

"We're in regular contact … and will follow the guidance issued by the government regarding the investigation and recalls," said Paul Bustard, the company's vice-president of food operations.

"We were told it was fine to sell lettuce in Manitoba, so we're going to sell lettuce in Manitoba," he said.

In Winnipeg, CBC News visited a Real Canadian Superstore, Walmart, Food Fare, Save-on-Foods, Safeway and Red River Co-op on Thursday. All but Red River Co-op and Safeway have pulled romaine from their shelves. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Despite no advisory in Manitoba, many other grocery stores and restaurants in the province are getting rid of their romaine.

Earlier this week, major chains Sobeys and Loblaws announced they were pulling all romaine products from their shelves country-wide as a precautionary measure.

In Winnipeg, CBC News visited a Real Canadian Superstore, Walmart, Food Fare, Save-on-Foods, Safeway and Red River Co-op on Thursday. They had all pulled romaine from their shelves, except for Red River Co-op and Safeway. A spokesperson for Safeway's parent company Sobeys told CBC News it's still in the process of removing all romaine.

"This is a massive proactive recall that we have initiated — the largest any of our team can remember, by far," said spokesperson Cynthia Thompson.

"The process to remove, report and verify the removal of this quantity of items in 1,500 retail locations is complex."

Rilla Edwards looks at the romaine at Red River Co-op, one of the stores that is still selling the lettuce. Food safety experts in Manitoba are warning people not to consume it, even though it's still for sale.

Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency of Canada says it still hasn't found the source of the contamination.

Because of that, food safety experts in Winnipeg are advising consumers across the country to avoid romaine lettuce altogether.

"As a precaution, just don't eat romaine lettuce until we get more information," said Claudia Narvaez, an expert in food safety at the University of Manitoba.

"I think that's the best recommendation to follow for everybody. I know I personally will avoid it."

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it has not received reports of anyone in Manitoba falling ill from a recent E. coli outbreak in the country. 1:57

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg

Journalist

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca