November 26, 2019

E. coli is threatening your Thanksgiving dinner. (Again.)

Daily Briefing

    CDC is once again warning U.S. residents that their romaine lettuce might contain E. coli, noting that 40 cases of E. coli infection tied to romaine lettuce have been reported across 16 states.

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    Warning details

    CDC in a warning issued Friday said the agency, along with FDA and "public health and regulatory officials in several states … are investigating a multi-state outbreak of E. coli … infections linked to romaine lettuce harvested from the Salinas, California, growing region."

    According to The Hill, this is the second time this year that CDC has issued a warning regarding romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli. The E. coli strain identified in the current outbreak, known as O157:H7, is the same strain that caused E. coli outbreaks tied to romaine lettuce in the last two years.

    According to CDC, a total of 40 cases of E. coli infection tied to the lettuce have been reported so far in the current outbreak, with:

    • 10 cases reported in Wisconsin;
    • Five cases reported in Ohio;
    • Four cases reported in California;
    • Three cases each reported Idaho, Maryland, and Pennsylvania;
    • Two cases each reported in Arizona and New Mexico; and
    • Once case each reported in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington.

    CDC said the cases involve patients who became ill on dates ranging from Sept. 24 to Nov. 10. Twenty eight patients have had to be hospitalized and five patients have developed kidney failure. There have not been any reported deaths linked to the outbreak, CDC said.

    Recommendations

    Officials once again are particularly concerned about the outbreak given the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. CDC two days before last year's Thanksgiving Day issued a broad warning that U.S. residents should avoid eating all romaine lettuce as officials investigated a similar E. coli outbreak.

    Robert Tauxe—director of CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases—said of this year's outbreak, "We are concerned about the potential for contaminated lettuce on store shelves and in people's refrigerators," adding, "Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, it is critically important to avoid buying or eating romaine lettuce from the Salinas growing area so you can protect yourself and your family."

    CDC recommended that, until directed otherwise, U.S. residents refrain from eating and throw away any romaine lettuce that was harvested from the Salinas, California, growing region, as well as romaine lettuce that is not labeled with a specific growing region. CDC also said U.S. residents should "wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine lettuce was stored."

    CDC said its recommendations pertain to all romaine lettuce products, including "whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and packages of precut lettuce and salad mixes which contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad."

    CDC said U.S. residents who experience symptoms of E. coli infection should:

    • Contact their health care providers and write down everything they ate during the week before they started feeling sick;
    • Prevent spreading the infection to others by practicing proper hygiene, and particularly proper handwashing; and
    • Report the illness to their local health departments and answer questions about the illness from public health investigators.

    CDC said people infected with E. coli typically begin to feel sick within two to eight days after ingesting the bacteria. According to the Washington Post, symptoms of E. coli infection can include cramps, diarrhea that often contains blood, and vomiting.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Thursday recalled a total of 35 products from food company Missa Bay in relation to the outbreak. Affected products are marked with "Use by" dates ranging from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 and were sold under various brand names, including Bonduelle Chef Salad, Marketside Bistro, Signature Café, and Signature Farm, the Washington Post reports. According to CDC, the affected products are labeled with "EST. 18502B" inside their USDA marks of inspection.

    CDC said officials will continue their investigation into the outbreak to determine the source of the contamination, as well as whether any other products were affected. The agency said it will provide more information on the outbreak as it becomes available (Johnson, The Hill, 11/22; CDC outbreak map, 11/22; CDC Food Safety Alert, 11/22; Sun, Washington Post, 11/23; Ortiz, New York Times, 11/22).

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