Food Safety Magazine

News | November 19, 2019

Cluster of E. coli Illnesses in Maryland Linked to Romaine Lettuce Salads

By Staff

Cluster of E. coli Illnesses in Maryland Linked to Romaine Lettuce Salads

On November 18th, the Maryland Department of Health released a statement announcing the investigation of a cluster of seven Escherichia coli O157:H7 illnesses in that state. Those seven consumers all reported eating Ready Pac Bistro® Bowl Chicken Caesar Salad purchased from various Sam’s Club locations in Maryland. The same salads are also sold at many other retailers. 

Testing was conducted on one unopened salad that had been purchased by one of the patients identified in the outbreak. The presence of E. coli was detected in the salad’s romaine lettuce. 

The specific product in question is Ready Pac Bistro® Bowl Chicken Caesar Salad, lot #255406963, “Best By” date Oct. 31, 2019. Consumers are being advised not to eat this product.

The Ready Pac Foods brand is made by Bonduelle Fresh Americas. The company’s initial statement (which has since been updated) read, in part:

We test all of our leafy greens (including romaine) in the fields prior to harvest, including screening for E. coli O157:H7. During this time frame, we did not have any positive test results for E. coli O157:H7. We are working in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and are working as quickly as possible to identify the possible root cause to reduce potential impacts to consumers. Because the products identified are already significantly past their use-by dates, we are not taking any recall action, and it does not affect any product currently on store shelves. As always, please abide by any use-by dates, and do not consume any products that have exceeded these dates.

The investigation is ongoing and additional laboratory testing is pending. 

UPDATE: A new statement released by Bonduelle on November 20th provides the following information:

  • A total of 17 illnesses in this outbreak have been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, Montanta, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • Currently, ill people in states other than Maryland have not reported eating Bonduelle's Ready Pac chicken ceasar salad kit that's been implicated in the Maryland illnesses.
  • "We want to clarify misinformation in initial statements by the CDC, FDA and Maryland, which listed the incorrect product and retailer names. Ready Pac Foods Bistro Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics Caesar Salad 2/6.25oz (Lot number 255406963, UPC# 7774527249) is only sold at Sam’s Club and NOT at other outlets."

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