Niagara Declares Multi-Community E. coli Outbreak
The E. coli 0157 outbreak that began in Niagara region in the latter part of October and involved Halton region, Waterloo region, Guelph, and Hamilton, has been declared over by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care as of today. More than 20 days have passed since the onset of the last probable outbreak-related case, a time period sufficient to conclude that no further outbreak cases are expected.
At conclusion of the investigation, Niagara Region Public Health had a total of 56 cases, of which 13 were lab confirmed cases and 13 were probable cases. The last confirmed or probable case in Niagara occurred in early November.
Niagara Region Public Health staff, assisted by support from the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion and the Public Health Agency of Canada, undertook extensive investigations of the outbreak, which involved the temporary voluntary closure of two restaurants within the region, Little Red Rooster in Niagara-on-the-Lake and M.T. Bellies in Welland.
Through excellent cooperation from the patrons, owners, and staff of these two restaurants, our local investigation strongly pointed to romaine lettuce as the likely cause of the E. coli illnesses. Based on information provided to our health unit, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were able to identify the production field in southern California from which the suspect romaine lettuce originated. We understand the on-site investigations have been inconclusive as to the potential source of the contamination of the romaine lettuce. However, the review and environmental tests took place more than 6 weeks after the date that Niagara Region Public Health estimated the romaine lettuce was being distributed to and consumed at the above two restaurants.
"We would like to re-emphasize that the above two restaurants have had excellent food inspection histories," stated Dr. Doug Sider, Associate Medical Officer of Health for Niagara Region. "All food samples collected from both restaurants were negative for E. coli. Both restaurants fully cooperated with all measures to assure that no further risks of E. coli infection would occur in their premises, including a thorough cleaning and disinfection of food preparation areas, disposal of any potentially contaminated food products, and a food safety refresher course was attended by all staff."
Niagara Region Public Health has concluded that the outbreak was the result of these two restaurants being commercially supplied with E. coli-contaminated ready-to-eat produce.