Don’t Eat Romaine Lettuce Due to E. Coli Outbreak, FDA Warns

TUESDAY, Nov. 20, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Cross one ingredient off your Thanksgiving dinner menu: romaine lettuce.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with health officials from various states are asking American consumers to avoid the leafy green due to an outbreak of dangerous E. coli illness.

“At this time, the FDA recommends that consumers do not eat romaine lettuce and discard any product until we know more,” the two agencies said in an FDA news release issued Tuesday. “Retailers, restaurants and other food service operators should not serve romaine lettuce until more is known about this outbreak.”

So far, 32 people across 11 states have become sick with E.coli after eating romaine lettuce, the FDA said. Thirteen of those cases were severe enough to require hospitalization and one patient developed kidney failure, although no deaths have so far been reported.

The latest case of reported illness onset occurred Oct. 31. States affected by the outbreak include California (10 cases), Connecticut (1 case), Illinois (2 cases), Massachusetts (2 cases), Maryland (1 case), Michigan (7 cases), New Hampshire (2 cases), New Jersey (3 cases), New York (2 cases), Ohio (1 case) and Wisconsin (1 case).

The FDA noted that romaine lettuce typically has a shelf life of about 21 days, so contaminated produce could still be on store shelves or in people’s refrigerators. For that reason, “consumers throughout the U.S. shouldnot eatromaine lettuce until further notice,” the agency advised.

The exact source of the outbreak remains unclear, but tests are being done on romaine lettuce throughout the U.S. market.

The strain of E. coli O157:H7 that’s causing illness in the current outbreak “is different than the one identified in the large outbreak in Spring 2018 linked to romaine from the Yuma growing region,” the FDA said. However, “it does appear to be similar to the strain that caused a smaller outbreak linked to leafy greens that occurred in the fall of 2017 in both the U.S. and Canada,” the news release stated.

“The quick and aggressive steps we’re taking today are aimed at making sure we get ahead of this emerging outbreak, to reduce risk to consumers, and to help people protect themselves and their families from this foodborne illness outbreak,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in the press release. “This is especially important ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, when people will be sitting down for family meals.”

He said that, right now, there’s just not enough evidence to request a recall from specific lettuce supplier, so in the meantime consumers should just avoid the product altogether.

If you feel you might be ill with E. coli, seek medical help. Symptoms often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting.

More information

Find out more about E. coli illness at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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