Food & Dining

CDC and FDA say don’t eat romaine lettuce as another E. coli outbreak hits 11 states

The Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Food & Drug Administration on Tuesday announced they’re investigating another E. coli outbreak connected to romaine lettuce and warn consumers to avoid the salad favorite.

“CDC is advising that U.S. consumers not eat any romaine lettuce, and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any, until we learn more about the outbreak,” the CDC’s alert says.

This is not a recall. Recalls involve specific suppliers or manufacturers. The FDA said Tuesday, it “does not have enough traceback information to identify the source of the contamination that would allow us to request a targeted recall from specific suppliers.”

This E. coli O157:H7 outbreak has hit 32 people in the United States, 13 of whom have been hospitalized, in 11 states. In Canada, 15 people in Quebec province and three in Ontario have been sickened, six of whom have been hospitalized. One person in the U.S. and one in Canada have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the sometimes fatal kidney failure that can accompany E. coli.

In the United States, California has 10 illnesses. Most of the rest are clustered in the Midwest (11 among Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) and Northeast (11 in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Hampshire).

E. coli usually strikes around three or four days after being ingested, although it can start from two to eight days after ingestion. Usually, there’s light fever, stomachaches and bloody diarrhea lasting five to seven days. If you feel these symptoms, see a health care professional. Do not take antibiotics, the CDC warns, until it’s determined that E. coli is NOT the cause of symptoms. Certain antibiotics might increase the chances of HUS.

And, right from the start of this outbreak, the stay-away advisory includes all romaine lettuce “such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of pre-cut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.”

If you’re not sure if your salad mix includes romaine lettuce, toss it, the CDC says. Then sanitize the part of the refrigerator where the lettuce sat.

Early in last spring’s romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak, the warnings were limited to chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, region. One of the most widespread E. coli outbreaks ever killed five of the 210 people it sickened in 36 states. The CDC said laboratory testing fingered Yuma area canal water as the source of that outbreak.

While this is unrelated to that outbreak, the CDC says, “Ill people in this outbreak were infected with E. coli bacteria with the same DNA fingerprint as the E. coli strain isolated from ill people in a 2017 outbreak linked to leafy greens in the United States and to romaine lettuce in Canada.”

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“As millions of Americans get ready to sit down for Thanksgiving meals, they need to be careful when making salads. It’s clear something is rotten on our lettuce farms,” said Viveth Karthikeyan, U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog associate. “While the CDC is still investigating the cause of this outbreak, an outbreak earlier this year was linked to improper manure disposal by nearby cattle farms. It is time to take another look at our food safety system to ensure that every bite you take this holiday season is safe.”

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