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2019 Ecoli Romaine Lettuce Outbreak Has Everyone Fuming

Posted in E. coli,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on December 4, 2019

Romaine lettuce is the culprit yet again in a 2019 Ecoli romaine lettuce outbreak that gave people quite the holiday scare. E.coli infections are on the rise being linked to romaine and currently there are 138 reported cases involving 25 states. Of those cases, 72 people have been hospitalized, and 13 have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome – a severe form of kidney failure.

2019 Ecoli Romaine Lettuce Outbreak Update

Since the previous update on December 4, an additional 36 ill people have been reported. As of December 17, 2019, a total of 138 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from 25 states.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from September 20, 2019, to December 1, 2019. Ill people range in age from less than 1 to 89 years, with a median age of 26. Sixty-two percent of ill people are female. Of 136 ill people with information available, 72 hospitalizations have been reported, including 13 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

Before that, the previous update on November 26, an additional 35 ill people have been reported. As of December 2, 2019, a total of 102 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from 23 states.

State Ill People
Arizona 3
California 4
Colorado 6
Florida 1
Idaho 3
Illinois 1
Iowa 1
Maryland 4
Michigan 1
Minnesota 3
Montana 1
Nebraska 1
New Jersey 7
New Mexico 2
North Carolina 1
Ohio 12
Oregon 1
Pennsylvania 8
South Dakota 1
Texas 4
Virginia 4
Washington 2
Wisconsin 31
Total 102

Illnesses started on dates ranging from September 24, 2019, to November 18, 2019. Ill people range in age from less than 1 to 89 years, with a median age of 25. Sixty-five percent of ill people are female. Of 98 ill people with information available, 58 hospitalizations have been reported, including 10 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

History Repeats Itself with this 2019 Ecoli romaine lettuce outbreak

Last November you may remember being in the same boat. You are not dreaming as there was a similar outbreak about this time in 2018. You can read back through the romaine based articles on MakeFoodSafe and see for yourselves that there is definitely a long running history with E.coli and romaine lettuce.

All of the stories seem quite familiar and have similar characteristics, obviously all involving romaine lettuce as the cause. The November 2018 outbreak carried into the year 2019 and was considered over in early January so how long is the 2019 outbreak expected to last? Who knows really. The 2018 outbreak ended with 62 reported cases total and 25 hospitalizations involving 25 of our 50 states.

What To Do With Romaine Lettuce

Currently the CDC is telling everyone to not consume any romaine that was harvested from Salinas, California. This is a huge downer to me since I do dearly love a good Cesar salad, but health first. Retailers will also be pulling this romaine from their shelves and restaurants will stop using it as well.

The CDC Recommends:

  • Avoiding all types of romaine lettuce grown in Salinas, California, such as whole heads of romaine, organic romaine, hearts of romaine, romaine in salad wraps, and packages of precut lettuce and salad mixes which contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
    • Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine, which may be labeled as “indoor grown,” from any region does not appear to be related to the current outbreak.

More about the 2019 Romaine Lettuce Outbreak

  • Most romaine lettuce products are labeled with a harvest location showing where they were grown.
  • This advice includes all types of romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and packages of pre cut lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
  • If you have romaine lettuce at home:
    • Look for a label showing where the romaine lettuce was grown. It may be printed on the package or on a sticker.
    • If the label says “Salinas” (whether alone or with the name of another location), don’t eat it, and throw it away.
    • If it isn’t labeled with a growing region, don’t eat it, and throw it away.
    • If you don’t know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, don’t eat it, and throw it away.
    • Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine lettuce was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
  • If you are buying romaine lettuce at a store:
    • Look for a label showing where the romaine lettuce was grown. It may be printed on the package or on a sticker.
    • If the label says “Salinas” (whether alone or with the name of another location), don’t buy it.
    • If it isn’t labeled with a growing region, don’t buy it.
  • Restaurants and retailers should check the label on bags or boxes of romaine lettuce, or ask their suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce.
    • Look for a label showing where the romaine lettuce was grown. It may be printed on the package or on a sticker.
    • If the label says “Salinas” (whether alone or with the name of another location), don’t sell or serve it.
    • If it isn’t labeled with a growing region, don’t sell or serve it.
  • Suppliers, distributors, and others in the supply chain should not ship or sell romaine harvested in Salinas, California.

What Next?

  • The recalled salad products have “Use By” dates ranging from October 29, 2019, to November 1, 2019.
  • The recalled products have establishment number “EST. 18502B” inside the USDA mark of inspection.
  • Visit the USDA website for a full list of recalled products.
    • This recall includes salad products that contained contaminated romaine lettuce. The romaine lettuce was tested by the Maryland Department of Health as part of a foodborne illness outbreak in Maryland.

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 your local health department.
  • Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.
  • Prevent infections in others by practicing proper hygiene, especially good handwashing.

Prevention is key, but knowledge is power and knowing the signs of an E.coli infection is highly important. Here are some tips to catch the infection early to hopefully avoid any serious or lasting effects:

First Early Symptoms

  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting
  3. Stomach cramps (abdominal pain)
  4. Diarrhea that is often bloody
  5. Fever of about 100 F to 101 F (37.7 C to 38.3 C)
  6. Malaise
  7. Loss of appetite
  8. Mild dehydration

These symptoms can be seen in infected children and adults.

Later or late symptoms of E. coli infections may include:

  1. Hemorrhagic diarrhea (large amounts of blood in the stools)
  2. Anemia
  3. Pale skin color
  4. Severe dehydration
  5. Little or no urine output
  6. Severe abdominal pains
  7. Easy bruising
  8. Nosebleeds
  9. Fatigue
  10. Shortness of breath
  11. Generalized swelling
  12. Kidney failure
  13. Jaundice
  14. Excessive bleeding
  15. Seizures
  16. Mental changes
  17. Death

For most people (about 90%), the infection clears and a good outcome and prognosis is good. However, if any of the previously mentioned complications occur, the prognosis may range from good to poor. The variable prognosis depends on the severity of the complication, the rapidity of diagnosis and treatment, the response of the individual to adequate treatment and the overall health of the individual. Children and the elderly are at higher risk for adverse outcomes.

With these outbreaks it is great to check on those who may be unaware of them and be helpful with letting them know. I know that when my grandparents were alive I was careful to help them be aware of recalls and even helping them to dispose of products involved in said recalls. It is often necessary to help care for our elderly loved ones.

If you suspect you have become ill with an E.coli infection, please consult your physician and be vigilant in your care.

Our E coli Lawyer is Here to Help You

If you believe you have developed an E coli infection from eating salads or in this 2019 Ecoli romaine lettuce outbreak, we want you to know that an attorney at the Lange Law Firm, PLLC is currently investigating this matter and offering free legal consultations. Our E.coli lawyer, Jory Lange became a lawyer to help make our communities and families safer. Anyone who was infected with E coli from romaine lettuce may be entitled to compensation for their injuries.  To learn more about this outbreak or making an E coli food poisoning claim, please contact us.

If you or a loved one have become ill with E coli, you can call (833) 330-3663 for a free legal consultation or complete the form here.

By: Samantha Cooper, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)