The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a food safety alert in light of a recent Escherichia coli outbreak in the United States. We outline its main takeaways.
Between September 24th and November 10th of this year, people in 16 states have developed symptoms of E. coli, such as severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting.
The source of this outbreak appears to be romaine lettuce from the Salinas, CA, growing region.
Since the start of the outbreak, 40 people have been diagnosed with E. coli infection, 27 of whom have been hospitalized.
Five of these people have developed a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a type of kidney failure. No related deaths have occurred.
Investigators from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have tracked the source of the outbreak to romaine lettuce. It appears to be contaminated with the same strain of coli O157:H7 that triggered similar outbreaks in 2017 and 2018.
However, the FDA have not yet linked any specific romaine lettuce grower, supplier, distributor, or brand to the outbreak.
Until the authorities find out more, the CDC have issued a food safety alert in which they urge consumers to avoid romaine lettuce from the Salinas, CA, growing region.
Below, we summarize the main takeaways of the CDC’s announcement, which can be read in full on the organization’s website.
‘Don’t eat it, and throw it away’
The CDC strongly advise people not to eat any romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas region. This includes “whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and packages of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, Caesar salad, and organic romaine.”
The CDC also urge retailers not to sell and restaurants not to serve this lettuce.
People should not eat romaine lettuce that has “Salinas” on its label, whether this is on its own or next to another location’s name. They should throw the lettuce away immediately. This applies to consumers, restaurants, and retailers.
Furthermore, the CDC advise that if the lettuce is not labeled with a growing region, “Don’t eat it, and throw it away.” They continue: “If you don’t know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, don’t eat it or serve it. Throw it away.”
Refrigerator drawers and shelves that have held romaine lettuce need to be thoroughly washed and sanitized, the agency adds.
Finally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken off the market some products that may be contaminated because they contain romaine lettuce. The full list of these products is here.
Dr. Robert Tauxe, who is the director of the CDC Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, comments on the outbreak.
He says, “We are concerned about the potential for contaminated lettuce on store shelves and in people’s refrigerators.”
“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.”
Dr. Robert Tauxe
The CDC note that the investigation into this E. coli outbreak is ongoing and that the health protection agency will continue to update the public as soon as they have more information.