National E. coli outbreak has some Island businesses taking extra precautions

The investigation into an outbreak of E. coli in Eastern Canada is still ongoing and while health officials confirm there have not been any cases reported on P.E.I., some local businesses have taken extra precautions to ensure food is safe.

Latest reports say there are 41 cases of E. coli in Canada and 16 in the U.S.

There is currently no recall of romaine lettuce from the Public Health Agency of Canada. (CBC News)

As the investigation into an outbreak of E. coli in Eastern Canada continues, some local businesses on P.E.I. have taken extra precautions to ensure food is safe. 

Health officials confirm there have not been any cases reported on P.E.I., but according to the latest national update from the Public Health Agency of Canada, there are 41 reported cases of the illness in Canada and another 16 in the U.S. The outbreak has affected people in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. 

Adam Loo, the culinary operations manager for the Murphy Hospitality Group, said he's been monitoring the situation closely since he found out about the outbreak in November. 

'Important that we're on top of it'

"When there's a risk or a known risk it's very important that we're on top of it," Loo said. 

The Murphy Hospitality Group owns several restaurants in Charlottetown. Loo said he's been in constant communication with head chefs and staff to make sure they are practising proper washing procedures and are aware of the risks associated with contaminated lettuce. 

It is recommended that people wash lettuce thoroughly with running water to remove possible contaminates. (CBC News)

"We automatically have a red flag," he said. "This is going on around us, we want to make sure that we're not involved and there's no issues with our products."

He said he has also been checking in with produce suppliers regularly to make sure there are no risks of contamination. 

"The first question we ask our suppliers is, have you had any other issues, has there been an outbreak or has there been any known possible contamination," Loo said.

As long as we know we're taking the extra steps to make sure there are no issues with our suppliers we are confident that there won't be any problems, he added.

Grocery stores selling lettuce

A spokesperson from Sobeys Canada confirmed that the grocery chain pulled romaine lettuce from the shelves in stores nationally, including its locations on P.E.I. However, Sobeys stores have started selling romaine lettuce again after tests by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency came back negative for E. coli. 

Public Health Agency of Canada is urging five eastern provinces to use caution when eating romaine lettuce.

Loblaws Superstores said that since the CFIA, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency have not announced a recall for romaine lettuce products in Canada, it has not stopped selling it in stores. It adds that if a recall were to be made, Loblaws would immediately remove and dispose of all romaine lettuce products. 

Consider other options

Although P.E.I. was not included in the latest advisory, P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer, Heather Morrison, said Islanders who want to consume romaine lettuce should make sure they are washing their lettuce thoroughly before eating it.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends hand washing lettuce, including whole heads of lettuce sold in sealed bags, in cold, running water until all dirt has been washed away. It also advises throwing away the outer leaves of fresh lettuce before washing. 

"The numbers are still fairly small in our neighbouring provinces," Morrison said. "But, Islanders may want to consider consuming other types of lettuce instead of romaine until we know more about the source and the cause of the contamination."