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Ecoli Infections Linked to Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits

Posted in E. coli,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on December 13, 2019

The CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, and FDA announced that they are investigating a multistate Fresh Express Salad Ecoli outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infectionsThis investigation includes illnesses in Canada recently reported by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

At this time, there are a total of eight people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from three states.

Fresh Express Salad Ecoli Outbreak

 

Map of United States - People infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli, by state of residence, as of December 9, 2019

 

Illnesses started on dates ranging from November 5, 2019, to November 15, 2019. Ill people range in age from 21 to 91, with a median age of 32. Among ill people, 63%  are female. Three of the eight ill people have been hospitalized, including one person who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

Epi curve of people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli, by date of illness onset, as of December 9, 2019

What’s Happening in this Fresh Express Salad Ecoli Outbreak

Information collected to date indicates that Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp chopped salad kits are a likely source of this outbreak. Of seven ill people with information available, all seven (100%) reported eating any leafy green in the week before their illness started. Six ill people reported eating or maybe eating a Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp chopped salad kit.

The investigation is ongoing to determine what ingredient in the salad kit was contaminated. Romaine lettuce is one of the ingredients in the salad kit, but we do not know yet if this outbreak is related to a current outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California, growing region.

There has not  been a recall initiated to date.

CDC Recommendations in this Fresh Express Salads Ecoli Outbreak

Do not eat or sell Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits with this identifying information: UPC 0 71279 30906 4, beginning with lot code Z, and a best-before date up to and including 07DEC19. This information is printed on the front of the bag in the top right corner.

  • Check your fridge for this salad kit.
    • Don’t eat it. Throw it away.
    • Even if some of the kit was eaten and no one got sick, throw the rest away.
    • Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where the salad kit was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
  • Retailers and restaurants should not sell or serve this salad kit.

In the past, Consumer Reports felt the need to take a stance to tell consumers the concern about Ecoli in lettuce. On January 3, 2018, the organization’s food safety experts issued their first warning for Americans to avoid eating romaine lettuce. The following day, they posted an article that not even washing lettuce could not 100% protect against an E. coli infection. James Rogers, Ph.D., a food safety expert, commented:

“It is very difficult to remove bacteria from leafy greens,” he says. “Bacteria have the ability to adhere to the surface of the leaves, and to get stuck in microscopic crevices.”

He isn’t the only one who is recommending a moment of extra caution in the wake of a mystery sourced outbreak. Our friends at Mother Nature Network have (for years) warned that E. coli is impossible to completely wash off of lettuces. “So while it is significant that a vinegar rinse could reduce the E.coli counts, there is a chance that you could still get sick from any lingering bacteria. Even more disturbing, E. coli can create a biofilm once it has attached to produce, which makes it hard to wash off. To top it off, E. coli can penetrate deep into the tissue of the vegetable or fruit…”, their 2013 article by Kim Harris comments.

What is Ecoli?

The bacteria known as Escherichia coli, or E. coli for short is a single celled organism that naturally resides in the intestines of healthy people and animals.  While most types of E. coli are harmless and make up the normal digestive process, some can cause serious and even sometimes fatal illness.  Unfortunately, the outbreak we speak of is not innocuous.  The big bad bug we are talking about is E. coli O157:H7.  This is a Shiga toxin-producing strain. Certainly, anything with the word toxin can’t possibly be a good thing for the human body.  This bad boy causes severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting.  While otherwise healthy adults can still become ill from infection, they generally recover within a week with over-the-counter symptom relief treatment as the infection runs its course.  However, the very young and older adults are at risk of developing additional complications such as a life-threatening form of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS.

How Then Does Ecoli Get on My Salad?

Lettuce, like many other crops, is grown in the ground. If the seeds have been watered with contaminated water or fertilized with contaminated manure, the plant grows with the bacteria. The bacteria live and grow in the root system, in the leaves, and in the plant itself.

Scientists are still working out the details of this micro-phenomenon. In a New York Times article I read, published back in 2011, it was represented that “[s]cientists in the United States and Europe are working to identify the risky junctures in the supply chain, noting recently, for example, that bacterial counts in refrigerated greens may rise before the leaves look tainted and that E. coli may be integrated into the fiber of some vegetables, making washing them ineffective against E. coli.”

How The Lange Law Firm Can Help

Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by contaminated food or water.  When corporations cause Ecoli food poisoning outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable.  The Lange Law Firm is one of the only law firms in the nation focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits.

If you got sick in this latest Fresh Express Salad Ecoli Outbreak and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we can help. We want you to know that an E coli Lawyer at the Lange Law Firm, PLLC is currently investigating this matter and offering free legal consultations. Our 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, get in touch with our team today by contacting us online.

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: Candess Zona-Mendola, Editor (Non-Lawyer)