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CDC warns people not to eat romaine lettuce amid new E. coli outbreak

Posted at 5:14 PM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-20 19:15:05-05

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is warning people not to eat romaine lettuce as officials investigate a new outbreak of E. coli. The outbreak has sickened at least 32 people from 11 states, including 13 who needed to be hospitalized.

“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 said in a statement Tuesday.

The advice applies to all types of romaine lettuce products including 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.

No brand names have been identified and no recall was ordered. But officials say anyone who has any type of romaine lettuce in at home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was already eaten and no one has gotten sick.

“FDA is working on determining the source of the romaine lettuce, but at this time they haven’t been able to identify a single grower or supplier or brand of romaine lettuce,” the CDC’s Laura Gieraltowski told CBS News.

If you don’t know whether the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine lettuce, the CDC advises discarding it. Drawers and shelves where romaine lettuce was stored should be washed and sanitized.

The outbreak involves a strain of the bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7, which may cause serious illness.

Symptoms of E. coli infection include diarrhea, which can be bloody, severe stomach cramps and vomiting. E. coli infections typically clear up within a week. However, more severe cases can lead to a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). One person has developed HUS in the current outbreak.

Canadian health officials have also identified 18 cases in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec where people were infected with the same DNA fingerprint of E. coli O157:H7.

The CDC says the current outbreak is not related to a separate outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce earlier this year, which resulted in similar warnings to avoid romaine lettuce in April and May. That outbreak, which sickened more than 200 people, was blamed for five deaths. It was eventually traced to contaminated irrigation water in the Yuma, Arizona growing region.






From the CDC website: 

CDC is advising consumers, restaurants, and retailers not to eat, serve, or sell any romaine lettuce as it investigates an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to romaine.

Key Points:

  • CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states and Canada, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections.
  • Thirty-two illnesses have been reported from 11 states, including 13 people who have been hospitalized. One person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.
  • Epidemiologic evidence from the United States and Canada indicates that romaine lettuce is a likely source of the outbreak.
  • Illnesses started on dates ranging from October 8, 2018 to October 31, 2018.
  • 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. The current outbreak is not related to a recent multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to romaine lettuce.

Advice to Consumers, Retailers, and Restaurants:

  • 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. This investigation is ongoing and the advice will be updated as more information is available.
  • Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.
    • This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
    • If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.
  • Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing romaine.
  • People with symptoms of an E. coli infection, such as severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting, and think you might have gotten sick from eating romaine lettuce, should talk to their doctor and report their illness to the health department.
  • This investigation is ongoing and CDC will provide more information as it becomes available.