There are reports that fresh produce is now suspected to be the source of an E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least 15 people (as many as 20) in northeastern Canada. There are currently 10 (5 of those pending genetic testing) confirmed cases of E. coli 0157:H7 in Nova Scotia, 6 in New Brunswick and 4 in Ontario. Given the time of the year of this outbreak and its short duration, leafy greens are a certainty, and it being a U.S. import highly likely, and from California most likely.
After learning that an E. coli outbreak in Canada in late December and early January was likely caused by fresh produce, lawyer Bill Marler – who has represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illnesses – did what some lawyer do – some research. He looked at historical data linking California leafy greens to E. coli outbreaks in Canada, and found a long history of problems:
In 2006, at least one Canadian resident became ill with an E. coli infection during an outbreak linked to spinach grown in California.
In 2008, 55 residents of Ontario, Canada suffered E. coli infections after eating Romaine lettuce served at local restaurants, and at least 3 Canadians became ill with E. coli infections after eating iceberg lettuce. In both outbreaks, the lettuce was traced back to California growers.
In 2009, at least 4 Ontario residents fell ill with E. coli infections after eating contaminated lettuce at Wendy’s restaurants. Also that year, 12 Canadians became ill during a Salmonella outbreak traced to California lettuce.
In 2012, at least 18 Canadians suffered E. coli infections after eating California-grown Romaine lettuce in April and more were part of an E. coli outbreak traced to a similar product in August.
“As an importer of U.S. leafy greens, it seems to me that Canadian consumers have as much to gain from the new FDA food safety rules released last week as Americans do,” Marler said.
BACKGROUND: Marler and his law firm, Marler Clark, have represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness outbreaks, including E. coli and Salmonella outbreak victims from Canada. The firm has litigated E. coli cases against multiple leafy greens producers from California in the last 20 years. Marler Clark also represents most of the seriously ill, and the families of those who died, in the 2011 Listeria cantaloupe outbreak that sickened 147 with over 33 deaths.
Marler Clark sponsors OutbreakDatabase.com, a clearinghouse of information related to significant food- and waterborne outbreaks that have occurred since 1984, including E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and other foodborne illness outbreaks traced to leafy greens