If you have been watching the news lately, you have seen that there has been a recall on romaine lettuce due to an E. coli outbreak. The initial warning went out on April 13th when the CDC had tracked about 35 cases of E. coli poisoning across 11 different states. They also released an official statement on their website with more details:
“Outbreak Alert: E.coli outbreak linked to chopped romaine lettuce. Before you buy or eat chopped romaine lettuce at stores or restaurants, ask to make sure it is not from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. If they don’t know, don’t buy or eat it.”
While the warning still stands, the CDC has since released several more updates…
As of May 10th, the newest update is that 28 more people have been infected by E. coli, bringing the total cases to 149 spread across 29 states. More specifically, E. coli cases have been noted in Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Montana, Colorado, Utah, California, Arizona, Alaska, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida. Of all these states, California and Pennsylvania have been hit the hardest with 30 and 20 cases, respectively.
As recently as May 2nd, the CDC released another announcement that someone in California had died as a result of E. coli poisoning.
With the likely source of the contaminated lettuce coming out of Harrison Farms in Yuma, California, the FDA stated that they’ve been actively working to stop the distribution of these vegetables at the source:
“The FDA has received confirmation from the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement administered by the Arizona Department of Agriculture that romaine lettuce is no longer being produced and distributed from the Yuma growing region, reducing the potential for exposure to contaminated product. However, due to the 21-day shelf life, we cannot be certain that romaine lettuce from this region is no longer in the supply chain.”
Despite the fact that these organizations have identified one farm as the likely source of these cases, what isn’t clear is “where in the supply chain the contamination occurred.
The strain, called O157:H7, is known to produce Shiga toxin during the digestion process, leading to symptoms such as bloody diarrhea, severe stomach pain and vomiting. In more severe cases, kidney complications can arise which may lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially life-threatening illness. Though the FDA has said that most people recover from O157:H7 in five to seven days, it may still take several weeks to show any symptoms of infection.
Still, not everyone may have the same risk: adults older than 65, children under five and those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible.
Above all, consumers should stay vigilant and continue to avoid romaine lettuce sourced from Yuma, Arizona.
Potentially contaminated products include whole heads of lettuce as well as mixed bags containing romaine leaves. Though the official announcement was mostly restricted to lettuce from those problem areas, consumers are encouraged to avoid any and all romaine if they don’t know its source. Anyone experiencing the symptoms listed above should seek medical help immediately.