An E. coli outbreak has led to the CDC to warn Americans to avoid romaine lettuce and JBS USA to recall close to 100,000 pounds of ground beef.
Only romaine lettuce from certain parts of California is unsafe to eat, federal health officials announced Monday.
The multi-state outbreak of E. coli infections has been traced to the Central Coast regions of California, according to a statement from Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
“Romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California does not appear to be related to the current outbreak,” Gottlieb said. “There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine harvested from these sources.”
Romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with information about when and where it was harvested, according to Gottlieb’s statement. If a product does not have this information, consumers are advised not to eat or use it.
The FDA also said the market appears to have been successfully purged of potentially contaminated romaine lettuce related to the outbreak thanks to the market withdrawal request of Nov. 20.
The vast majority of the romaine on the market was being grown in the Central Coast region of California at the time of the outbreak, according to the statement. Romaine harvesting has ended there for the year and has since shifted to winter growing regions including Florida, Mexico and desert regions in California and Arizona.
The FDA said it has no information to suggest that these growing areas are tied to the current E. coli outbreak. Hydroponic lettuce and lettuce grown in greenhouses also do not appear to be affected by the outbreak.
The outbreak has sickened 43 people in 12 states, plus 22 people in Canada, according to the FDA.
That’s up from 32 people sickened, including 13 hospitalized, in 11 states last week, and there could be more cases coming. Twenty days is the average amount of time that passes between when a person falls ill and when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is alerted, according to the FDA.
The most significant symptoms are severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea and while the majority of diners sickened get well in five to seven days, five to 10 percent develop a potentially life-threatening type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. Most at risk for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections are those younger than 5, older than 65 and with weakened immune systems.
The CDC has advised consumers to throw away any romaine lettuce they have in any form, such as whole heads, hearts or salad mixes containing it. If you don’t know if your lettuce is romaine, play it safe and toss it, too. Also, sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored using soapy water and, if desired, bleach.
Last week, the FDA said the strain of E. coli O157:H7 causing the current outbreak is genetically link to the strain the caused an outbreak last fall in the U.S. and Canada Twenty-five people got sick — including one death and two incidents of hemolytic uremic syndrome — in 15 states.
Federal investigators have found no connection between the current outbreak and the one that started this past spring. There were 210 cases, including five people who died and 96 who were hospitalized.
You’ve heard the warnings, but here’s why this strain of E. coli is particularly hard to avoid.
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