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URGH! Yet Another Romaine Lettuce Ecoli Outbreak

Posted in E. coli,Outbreaks & Recalls on November 20, 2018

While we might have thought that the romaine lettuce and Ecoli bacteria fiasco was over and done with, it’s time to think again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Food Safety Alert on November 20th, 2018 at 2:30 PM eastern time. There’s another Romaine Lettuce Ecoli Outbreak. This alert informed consumers everywhere that the CDC, public health and regulatory officials in multiple states, Canada, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are currently investigating a multistate Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak directly linked to contaminated crops of romaine lettuce. They all warn consumers against eating romaine lettuce of any kind until more information is acquired.

What We Know

So far during this outbreak, there have been 32 reported cases across 11 different states and two countries, all due to the consumption of romaine lettuce that’s been contaminated with E. coli bacteria. There have been 13 hospitalizations, though no deaths, and while there has yet to be a recall, authorities are warning consumers against purchasing or eating romaine products.

Of the thirty-two people who have reportedly been infected from the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in the United States, thirteen were hospitalized, including one who, according to the CDC, “developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure,” though no deaths have yet been reported. The Public Health Agency of Canada, however, has identified an additional 18 people who have fallen ill to the same type of infection. Illnesses began on dates ranging between October 8th and October 31st of this year. Current epidemiologic evidence gathered by both the United States and Canada strongly suggests that romaine lettuce is the source of the outbreak.

CDC and FDA Warnings

The CDC is strictly warning all United States consumers against eating any romaine lettuce products anywhere. That includes romaine lettuce from the grocery store and romaine lettuce found at restaurants. It includes romaine heads, hearts, and pre-cut salads.The CDC is advising retailers and restaurants to cease selling any and all romaine lettuce products until the department is are able to learn more about this specific outbreak and identify the source. The investigation is currently ongoing and not enough information has been gathered yet to contain the outbreak. That being said, the CDC is clear about the fact that their advice will be carefully updated as more information is gathered.

In order to make the situation abundantly clear, the CDC has offered concise instructions to consumers, retailers, and restaurants across the nation, including the following:

  • 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.
    • This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of pre-cut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
    • 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.
    • Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
  • Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing romaine.
  • 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.

Linked to Past Outbreaks?

According to the CDC, “Ill people in this outbreak were infected with E. coli bacteria with the same DNA fingerprint as the E. coli strain isolated from ill people in a 2017 outbreak linked to leafy greens in the United States and to romaine lettuce in Canada.” However, the CDC goes on to explain that this outbreak is unrelated to a recent outbreak of E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce.

According to the FDA, “The FDA is conducting a traceback investigation to determine the source of the romaine lettuce eaten by people who became sick. Additionally, FDA and states are conducting laboratory analysis of romaine lettuce samples potentially linked to the outbreak.” The CDC has clarified that no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified as the source of the outbreak, explaining all of the authorities emphatic warnings against consumers eating romaine lettuce of any kind.

The FDA goes on to warn consumers over the effects of an E. coli infection, saying that:

The symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing (STEC) E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. If there is fever, it is usually not very high (less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit/less than 38.5 degrees Celsius). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.

While the CDC echoes all of these warnings, it provides additional information, saying that “Antibiotics are not recommended for patients with suspected E. coli infections until diagnostic testing can be performed and E. coli infection is ruled out. Some studies have shown that administering antibiotics to patients with E. coli infections might increase their risk of developing HUS.”

In a Nutshell

The current bottom line emphasises the lack of information that the CDC, FDA, and other authorities have about this current outbreak, meaning that no romaine lettuce product is certain to be safe. They all promise to offer updates as soon as they become available, but until such updates are gathered, all authorities strictly warn against the consumption of romaine lettuce and offer a clear insight into the dangers one encounters should they eat this leafy green! So if you have romaine lettuce in your refrigerator currently or if you have it on you shopping list, don’t eat it and don’t purchase any more. Discard any and all romaine lettuce products in your fridge and wait to buy romaine lettuce until the CDC, FDA, and health officials release updates on the outbreak.

Our E coli Lawyer is Here to Help You

If you believe you have developed an E coli infection from eating romaine lettuce, 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.

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: Abbey Ryan Elder, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)