By Noah La Vie | United States
Unless the source… is known, consumers anywhere in the United States who have any store-bought romaine lettuce at home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, throw out any romaine lettuce if you’re uncertain about where it was grown. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.
– Center for Disease Control (CDC) statement
The CDC sent out this missive at 4PM EST on the 20th of April and immediately warns consumers and service industry members that are in possession of Romaine lettuce to throw it away. A new outbreak of E. Coli, the food transmitted disease, has ripped through Yuma, Arizona where Romaine is primarily grown and has infected over 53 individuals as of the writing of this article.
A direct link to the CDC’s website with more information about the outbreak and what you need to know can be found here.
On April 9th, the CDC recognized a nationwide rise in E. Coli infections. They found 17 victims, of varying age, sex, and health inflicted with the condition. At this point, they were unaware of the cause. It must be noted that unless DNA samples, fingerprinting, and blood samples are agreed by an individual for release by the CDC they will be an unreported statistic. The number may have been higher than 17 but the CDC does not report incomplete data sets.
By April 12th, the victim count had doubled from 17 to 35. 3 victims were suffering from types of kidney failure. Illnesses that occurred after March 27, 2018, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported. It could be weeks before the full scope of the disease outbreak has been explored.
Also on April 12th, the CDC released that twenty-six (93%) of 28 people interviewed reported consuming romaine lettuce in the week before their illness started. This percentage is significantly higher than of healthy people of which 46% reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before they were interviewed in the Atlas of Exposure (2006-2007) which is used by the CDC for comparative data.
Again, on April 18th, 18 people added to the victim list bringing the count up to 53. Forty-one (95%) of 43 people interviewed reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before their illness started.
On April 20th, the CDC discovered the link between Romaine and this new outbreak while interviewing infected individuals in Alaska on the subject. These individuals then pointed to the leafy lettuce as the source and the CDC corroborated this version of events by interviewing other victims. This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide more information as it becomes available. The new Alaska cases were not counted and no new count was given by the CDC.