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CDC Warns Not To Eat Any Romaine Lettuce, Amid New E. Coli Outbreak

Following new reports of E. coli food poisoning that have surfaced nationwide as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, federal health officials are advising consumers everywhere to stop eating romaine lettuce, throw away any they have on hand, and thoroughly sanitize areas where it was stored, since investigators are continuing to trace the exact source of the outbreak.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Food Safety Alert on November 20, advising Americans not eat any romaine lettuce, and for retailers and restaurants to immediately stop serving or selling any type of romaine lettuce products until more information is available.

CDC officials issued the alert after confirming at least 32 cases of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in 11 different states, including at least 13 reports involving hospitalizations and one severe case that resulted in kidney failure. Another 18 people in Ontario and Quebec have fallen ill with the same strain of E. coli.

Illnesses have been reported in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Preliminary epidemiologic investigations by the CDC and FDA have identified romaine lettuce products are the likely source of contamination, however the investigation in still ongoing and the exact source is still unknown.

The first illnesses were reported in early October, and the most recent illness was reported on October 31, and officials believe many illnesses have not been reported yet due to the amount of time it takes for symptoms to occur and be reported.

Officials have reported this particular strain of E. coli has a similar DNA fingerprint as the E. coli strain isolated from ill people in a 2017 outbreak linked to leafy greens. Additionally, 79 percent of those who have become ill reported eating romaine lettuce products within several days of becoming sick.

E. coli is a foodborne bacteria that causes mild to severe diarrhea and abdominal cramps, bloody stools, and sometimes minor fevers lasting between five and 10 days. For individuals like young children, the sick and the elderly, the consequences may be more severe due to weakened immune systems, potentially resulting in the infection causing a serious condition known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which may lead to kidney failure or even death.

The CDC investigation indicates this outbreak is not linked to a romaine lettuce outbreak earlier this year that sickened 98 people across 22 states, which resulted in 46 hospitalizations and 10 individuals developing HUS.

With Thanksgiving approaching, officials are urging consumers, restaurants, and retailers to stop consuming and selling any romaine lettuce products, including whole heads of romaine lettuce, hearts of romaine, bags, boxes and precut lettuce and mixed salads that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix and Caesar salad.

Since no common grower or distributor has been identified as the likely source, consumers should discard any and all romaine lettuce products in their home. If you are unsure of whether a salad mix contains any romaine lettuce products, the CDC is advising to discard it.

Consumers are encouraged to wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where any romaine lettuce products were stored and follow the five steps to sanitize your refrigerator.

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