Outbreak of E. coli infections linked to Fresh Express brand Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits in Canada

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TORONTO, Canada – The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada to investigate an outbreak of E. coli infections occurring across five eastern provinces. The outbreak appears to be ongoing, as recent illnesses continue to be reported to PHAC.

Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to Fresh Express brand Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits has been identified as a likely source of the outbreak. Many of the individuals who became sick reported having eaten Fresh Express brand Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits before their illnesses occurred. The investigation is ongoing, and it is possible that additional sources could be identified.

On December 8, 2019, the CFIA issued a food recall warning for Fresh Express brand Sunflower Crisp Chopped Kit, 315g packages, UPC Code: 0 71279 30906 4, beginning with lot code Z. These products have a best before date up to and including 07DE19 and were sold in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

For more information on the recalled product, please consult the CFIA’s website.

Canadians are advised not to eat the recalled product or any Fresh Express brand Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits sold in 315g packages, UPC 0 71279 30906 4, beginning with lot code Z, and best before date up to and including 07DEC19. Retailers and food service establishments are advised not to sell or serve these products, or any items that may have been prepared or produced using these products.

The CFIA is continuing its food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If additional products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated food recall warnings.

This public health notice will be updated as the investigation evolves.

Investigation summary

As of December 8, 2019, there are 16 confirmed cases of E. coli O157 illness linked to this outbreak in the following provinces: Ontario (10), Quebec (1), New Brunswick (3), Nova Scotia (1), and Newfoundland and Labrador (1). Individuals became sick between November 5 and November 22, 2019. Four individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 11 and 73 years of age. The majority of cases (62percent) are female.

The collaborative outbreak investigation was initiated because of an increase in reports of E. coli O157 illnesses.

It is possible that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because of the period between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between three and four weeks.

Who is most at risk?

E. coli O157 is more likely to cause severe illness than other strains of E. coli. Pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems, young children and older adults are most at risk for developing serious complications.

Most people who become ill from an E. coli infection will recover completely on their own. However, some people may have a more serious illness that requires hospital care or causes long-lasting health effects. In rare cases, some individuals may develop life-threatening complications, including stroke, kidney failure and seizures, which could result in death. It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

What you should do to protect your health

Check to see if you have any Fresh Express brand Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits in your home. If you do, follow this advice:

  • Do not to eat recalled products or any Fresh Express brand Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits sold in 315g packages, UPC 0 71279 30906 4, beginning with lot code Z, and a best before date up to and including 07DEC19.
  • Throw these products out immediately and properly wash and sanitize any containers that were used to store these products before using them again.
  • If you have any Fresh Express brand Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits without the original packaging and are unsure of whether these products are included in this advice, do not eat them. Throw them away just to be safe.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds immediately following contact with any of the recalled products.
  • Do not prepare food for other people if you think you are sick with an E. coli infection or suffering from any other contagious illness causing diarrhea.

Symptoms

People infected with E. coli can have a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, though they can still spread the infection to others. Others may feel as though they have a bad case of upset stomach. In some cases, individuals become seriously ill and must be hospitalized.

The following symptoms can appear within one to ten days after contact with the bacteria:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • mild fever
  • severe stomach cramps
  • watery or bloody diarrhea

Most symptoms end within five to ten days. There is no real treatment for E. coli infections, other than monitoring the illness, providing comfort, and preventing dehydration through proper hydration and nutrition. People who develop complications may need further treatment, such as dialysis for kidney failure. You should contact your health care provider if symptoms persist.

What the government of Canada is doing

The government of Canada is committed to food safety. The Public Health Agency of Canada leads the human health investigation into an outbreak, and is in regular contact with its federal, provincial and territorial partners to monitor the situation and to collaborate on steps to address an outbreak.

Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine whether the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak.

The government of Canada will continue to update Canadians as new information related to this investigation becomes available.

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