E Coli Outbreak Empties Romaine Lettuce off Tri-City Shelves

Kenny Tucker
April 16, 2018

CDC investigators don't believe this outbreak is connected to the one that occurred late past year in the United States and Canada, although it is the same potentially deadly strain, E.coli O157:H7.

Three cases in Montana are confirmed to be linked by laboratory testing to a multi-state outbreak and four more are suspected and further testing is pending. Since the outbreak was potentially linked to lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona, the CDC says only lettuce from these regions should be avoided.

The United States has been experiencing an E. coli outbreak affecting 11 states with 35 reported cases so far. The symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, severe abdominal cramping, diarrhea and fever.

The outbreak resulted in almost 36 people becoming ill to varying degrees, including 11 in Washington state.

One of those people added to the infected list in the CDC's most recent update is a MI resident.

"Individuals with this infection usually get better within about 5 to 7 days, however some illnesses can be serious or even life-threatening", Dr. Shereef Elnahal, commissioner of the state Department of Health, said in a statement. However, illnesses can start anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure. "If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away", the CDC said.

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Preliminary information collected by FDA, in conjunction with federal, state, and local partners, indicates that the chopped romaine lettuce that ill people ate was likely grown or originated from the winter growing areas in Yuma, Arizona.

Consumer Reports said it would be hard for buyers to tell where the romaine was grown, which is why they are saying consumers should avoid romaine altogether until the threat passes.

Consumers anywhere in the USA who have store-bought chopped romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes, should not eat it and throw it away - even if you have eaten some of it already.

If you are purchasing romaine lettuce, or have bought some recently, ask the retailers where it is from. That's all the information the U.S. agency gives in that regard as it adds, "no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has been identified".

This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide more information as it becomes available. Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 22, 2018 to March 31, 2018. The restaurants reported using bagged, chopped romaine lettuce to make salads. Three of those patients have a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is often associated with the O157:H7 E.coli strain.

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