CFIA to tighten net on EU produce, if any

“Enhanced controls” will be put in place on any tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuce coming to Canada from the European Union, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reports.

The agency emphasizes its move is mostly precautionary, as less than one per cent of the fresh product entering Canada comes from European countries and there’s “no indication that any contaminated product has been shipped to Canada.”

Still, any incoming shipments from the EU will be identified, CFIA said, and the agency plans to “intensify sampling and testing of these products” for the presence of a shiga toxin-producing strain of E. coli, now linked to a major outbreak in Europe.

Officials in Germany are still investigating the cause of the E. coli outbreak in Europe, CFIA said. The agency said its measures “will be adjusted, as warranted, to ensure the Canadian food supply remains protected.”

According to the Reuters news service, the outbreak involves a rare enterohemorrhagic strain, E. coli 0104:H4.

As of Friday, the bacterial strain has been linked to the deaths of 18 people in Germany and one in Sweden, and blamed for illnesses in over 1,700 other people, Reuters said.

Scientists have said the E.coli strain is highly likely to have originated in contaminated vegetables or salad in Germany, Reuters reported Friday.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, most of the cases are linked to the northern part of Germany and have turned up in people who live in or have recently visited the region.

Unusually, the WHO said, the cases of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) caused by the E. coli strain have been found mostly in women and mostly in people over age 20.

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