According to the agency, there have been 42 cases of E. coli across the country as of Wednesday, including eight in Ontario. Nine of those people have been hospitalized, two of whom are suffering from a form of kidney failure.
The last reported illness in the United States was on December 12, suggesting that the risk of buying food contaminated in the current outbreak had passed. The outbreaks were first reported in Canada, where officials have identified the culprit more specifically as romaine lettuce.
However, Consumer Reports is urging everyone to not eat romaine lettuce. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement there was "likely" no longer a concern. Since CDC's initial media statement on December 28, seven more illnesses have been added to this investigation. States with active outbreaks of the bacteria in question are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. There has been one death, which was previously reported.
Symptoms of E.coli usually start within three to 10 days after consumption.
"This is a unsafe strain of E. coli that can cause severe illness and even death", said Halloran's statement.
But U.S. health authorities have said it's too early to blame leafy greens as the probe continues.
The CDC, for its part, says that it hasn't yet identified the type of leafy green involved and that it's investigation is continuing. She said it's still unclear whether FDA is intensifying testing of USA and imported products in the wake of Canada's findings.
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) has been conducted on bacterial samples taken from ill persons in the United States. Because CDC has not identified a specific type of leafy greens linked to the USA infections, and because of the short shelf life of leafy greens, CDC is not recommending that US residents avoid any particular food at this time.
In an interview with NBC News, a CDC official said that even though Canadian authorities have linked the outbreak to romaine, US food safety workers haven't been able to identify a single food consumed by everyone affected.
In response to the statements made January 10 by USA and Canadian health officials, a coalition of produce industry associations from both countries issued guidance related to the recent outbreak. But infection with the O157 strain, which produces a shiga toxin, can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.
To protect against E. coli infection, health officials say people should thoroughly wash their hands, as well as counters, cutting boards and utensils.