In Canada, the number of human isolates of verotoxigenic (VT + ve) Escherichia coli O157:H7 from diarrhoeal cases and haemolytic uraemic syndrome and haemorrhagic colitis has increased from 25 in 1982 to 2384 in 1989. A total of 3273 VT + ve E. coli O157:H7 strains (3255 strains isolated in Canada and 18 isolates from other countries) were phage typed. The phage typing scheme has been extended from 14 to 62 phage types. Of these, five types occurred exclusively in other countries (type 47 in Japan; and types 49, 50, 51 and 52 in the U.K.). Thirty-five different phage types were identified in Canada; only nine of these (1, 2, 4, 8, 14, 21, 23, 31 and 32), each accounted for more than 1% of the cases from human sources. The same nine types were the only ones observed among the isolates from non-human sources (meat and slaughter houses) suggesting a food-borne transmission in most of the human cases. Phage types 1 (30.5%); 4 (21%); 8 (13.5%); 31 (8.9%) and 14 (8%) were encountered in varying frequencies in most of the provinces; infrequently occurring phage types also showed regional variation. Thirteen different phage types were identified among 151 outbreaks representing 556 isolates of E. coli O157:H7. More than one phage type were encountered in 12 outbreaks whereas in 141 outbreaks, all strains in each, had the same phage type.