ALERT: One Dead, 121 Sickened from E. coli Outbreak Linked to Romaine Lettuce

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The E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from the growing region of Yuma, Arizona became worse. One person died in California and more people became ill in other states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

E.coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce
Image Source: Wikipedia/Forest & Kim Starr

On Wednesday, the CDC said it received reports of 23 additional cases of E. coli infection from ten states. As of May 1, the total number of people sickened from the outbreak is 121 in 25 states. They were infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7.

According to CDC, 52 people were hospitalized, including 14 people who developed hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. The ages of people who got ill from the E. coli outbreak ranges from 1 to 88 years.  Most of them reported eating a salad from the restaurant and the common ingredient is romaine lettuce.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC are still investigating where, when and how the contamination occurred and spread in multiple states.

The FDA identified Harrison Farms in Yuma, Arizona as the source of the whole-head lettuce that sickened several prisoners in Nome, Alaska. The farm harvested all of the lettuce in question from March 5 to 16 and is past its 21-day shelf life.  It is examining all possibilities that the contamination may have occurred during the growing, harvesting, packaging, or distribution.

Most of the illnesses were not linked to Harrison Farms  because it is no longer growing any lettuce at this time. The growing season in Yuma is at its end. The FDA is investigating other fields as possible sources.

CDC Advice to Consumers

  • Do not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.
  • Product labels often do not identify growing region so, do not eat or buy romaine lettuce if you do not know where it was grown.
  • This advice includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you do not know if the lettuce in a salad mix is romaine, do not eat it.
  • Take action if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection:
    • Talk to your healthcare provider.
    • Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.
    • Report your illness to the health department.
    • Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.

CDC Advice to Restaurants

  • Do not serve or sell any romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce.
  • Restaurants and retailers should ask their suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce.

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