Coli outbreak traced to romaine lettuce

Laverne Higgins
April 16, 2018

Confirmed and suspected cases have been identified in Missoula, Flathead, Lincoln, and Ravalli counties and include three hospitalizations, according to the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services.

So far 35 cases of E. coli illness in 11 states have been reported and linked to the outbreak.

Symptoms of E. coli infection vary for each person, but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting.

The outbreak resulted in almost 36 people becoming ill to varying degrees, including 11 in Washington state. As the number of people being infected by the disease has been increasing, health officials raised concerns about the consumption of the vegetable as no particular brand of lettuce has been identified so far. However, illnesses can start anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure. "If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away".

CDC urged people to check the origin of the romaine lettuce before buying it at a grocery store or ordering it at a restaurant.

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The CDC is advising retailers and restaurants to stop selling chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma region, which is home to the annual Lettuce Festival and bills itself as the "winter lettuce capital".

This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide more information as it becomes available. Cases of illness showing E. coli symptoms have been reported in Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

Twenty-two of those affected had to be hospitalized in the current outbreak, including three with kidney failure, CR reported.

"Consumer Reports' experts believe that it could be hard for consumers to determine where the romaine they purchase is from, which is why they believe it's best to avoid the lettuce altogether", Consumer Reports said in a release. At this time, ill people are not reporting whole heads or hearts of romaine. That's all the information the US agency gives in that regard as it adds, "no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has been identified". "It is unrealistic to expect consumers to figure out whether their romaine was produced in Arizona or somewhere else, especially when eating in a restaurant", she says. If you can not confirm the source of the romaine lettuce, do not buy it or eat it. The Daily Meal has reached out to Chipotle and Just Salad to inquire whether they will continue to use and serve romaine lettuce in their meals.

This is a different E. coli O157:H7 HUS outbreak from the E. coli outbreak that took place from November to December 2017.

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