Romaine Lettuce E. coli Outbreak Blamed On Single Farm

Federal investigators say that a mysterious E. coli food poisoning outbreak that sickened 60 people in Missouri and nine other states was likely caused by contaminated romaine lettuce from a single farm. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an E. coli outbreak report on December 7, announcing that it tracked back the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak to romaine lettuce sold at Schnuck Markets, and from there back to a supplier. The CDC said that the contamination occurred on the farm, before being distributed to the St. Louis-based grocery store chain.

The CDC noted that the outbreak is likely over at this point, but at least 30 people were hospitalized and two developed a form of kidney disease known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) after eating the contaminated lettuce.

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At least 37 of the 60 who fell ill with the E. coli strain lived in Missouri, and related illnesses were reported in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota and Nebraska.

The outbreak ran its course from October 10 to November 4 and affected people from as young as 1 year old to 94 years of age. There were no fatalities reported in connection with the E. coli contamination.

The outbreak first caught the attention of officials when local hospitals saw a large spike in E. coli food poisoning reports. During the outbreak, one Schnucks Market in Richmond Heights, in the St. Louis metropolitan area, pulled fresh produce from its shelves and restocked its salad bar as a precautionary measure, but the source of the strain was not identified until later. 

E. coli O157:H7 is one of the more common causes of food poisoning in the United States. When left untreated, it can lead to dehydration and potentially life-threatening illness. While most healthy adults recover from food poisoning caused by E. coli within a few weeks, young children and the elderly could be at risk for more severe illness.


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