New E. Coli Outbreak Linked To Romaine Lettuce

CDC advises consumers to stop eating the veggie

Ashley Hunter
ECB Publishing, Inc.

It seems romaine lettuce has been declared unsafe to eat by the CDC, at least for the time being.
On Tuesday, November 20, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a food safety alert that advised consumers to cease eating romaine lettuce due to the increase of E. Coli infections that had been linked to the leafy green plant.
According to the food safety alert, the CDC is working alongside health officials in both the United States as well as Canada and the Food and Drug Safety Administration (FDA) to investigate a multi-state outbreak of a Shiga toxin-producing strand of Escherichia coli.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Shiga toxin (Stx) is one of the most potent bacterial toxins known.”
Shiga toxins can be present in E. Coli strands as well as forms of dysentery.
So far, 32 people have become infected with this Shiga toxin-producing E. Coli strand since the beginning of November, with California reporting the most illnesses (10), and Michigan reported the second highest concentration of illnesses (7); 13 people have been hospitalized due to their E. Coli infections, but no deaths have been reported.
Canada has reported 18 illnesses in the providences of Ontario and Quebec.
So far, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama have not reported any illnesses, but the CDC admits that some of the more recent infections might not have been reported yet.
While the CDC acknowledges that romaine lettuce is the cause of this outbreak, research is still being conducted into where the Shiga toxin-producing E. Coli is being produced; no companies have issued recalls into their romaine lettuce products.
With this in mind, the CDC is advising consumers to stop eating romaine lettuce until further insight can be gained into this bacteria and where it is coming into contact with the lettuce.
According to the CDC, consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should instead throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one had contracted the illness; this advice applies to all forms of the lettuce, including pre-packaged salad mixes, romaine heads and hearts, pre-cut romaine or whole romaine.
Restaurants and retailers are also advised to stop serving or selling any romaine lettuce, including any salads and salad mixes containing romaine.
If you decide to throw out romaine products that may be in your refrigerator, the CDC suggests an extra step of cleaning and sanitizing the area where the romaine lettuce was stored.
People usually get sick from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli between two-eight days after swallowing the germ, though it is more common to see the infection begin around the third or fourth day.
Some people who develop a STEC infection from the Shiga toxin may suffer a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS); the risk of this kidney failure can also be heightened through the use of antibiotics to treat the E. Coli illness. HUS is only seen in 5-10 percent of people who contract a STEC infection.
People who contract HUS do potentially run the risk of suffering life-altering or life-threatening complications, but most people recover within a few weeks.
Indicators of a developing hemolytic uremic syndrome include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids; people displaying these symptoms along with E. Coli symptoms should contact a medical professional immediately, as they are at risk for kidney failure.
Symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection vary for each person but the most common symptoms often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting.
Some people may have a fever, which usually is not very high.
Most people get better within 5 to 7 days.
Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.
So far, only one person has been reported suffering HUS complications due to this outbreak.
This investigation is ongoing, and the CDC will provide more information as it becomes available.