The Center for Disease Control has said that consumers should throw away any romaine lettuce and that restaurants should not service it as no romaine lettuce is safe to eat no matter where it is grown.
All romaine is suspect. 32 people in 11 states have become sick from eating contaminated romaine the CDC says. 13 have been hospitalized, with one patient suffering from a form of kidney failure. The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported that 18 people have been infected with the same strain of E. coli. in Ontario and Quebec.
“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,” the CDC said in the Food Safety Alert issued shortly before 3 p.m. “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,” the CDC said. “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.”
The agency also advised consumers to wash and sanitize drawers and shelves where the lettuce was stored. People usually become sick within three or four days of consuming lettuce contaminated with the E. coli, according to the CDC.
Five people died in the most recent major outbreak from contaminated romaine, which lasted from March to June of this year and led to 210 cases in 36 states. That outbreak was traced to the Yuma, Ariz. growing region, but investigators never conclusively determined the precise source. Gottlieb said the leading suspect is contaminated canal water used by multiple farms.
E.coli is a bacteria found in the intestines of animals. It can contaminate a wide variety of agricultural products. People can become infected with E. coli and report no symptoms. Those who do get sick from E. coli usually recover without complicates in 5 to 10 days. The illness can be spread from person to person through direct contact.
All three outbreaks — the current one, the one from Yuma and the one from last year — are caused by contamination of an E. coli strain known as O157:H7. It produces a Shiga toxin that in severe cases can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. Symptoms of infection include severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Anyone suspecting they have been infected should see a doctor and have the case reported to a local health department.