Food Safety Magazine

News | May 18, 2018

Multistate Romaine Lettuce E. coli Outbreak Continues to Spread

By Staff

Multistate Romaine Lettuce E. coli Outbreak Continues to Spread

As of May 16, the multistate Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to contaminated romaine lettuce has spread to 32 states, sickening 172 people, according to the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update. Seventy-five people have been hospitalized and one person in California has died.

CDC says that it takes 2 to 3 weeks between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported to CDC. The most recent illnesses reported to CDC started when romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing region was likely still available in stores, restaurants, and in peoples’ homes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received confirmation from the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement--administered by the Arizona Department of Agriculture--that romaine lettuce is no longer being produced and distributed from the Yuma growing region and that the last date of harvest was April 16, 2018. It is unlikely that any romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region is still available in stores or restaurants due to its 21-day shelf life.

The FDA is continuing to investigate illnesses related to romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region. The ongoing traceback investigation indicates that the illnesses associated with this outbreak cannot be explained by a single grower, harvester, processor, or distributor. While traceback continues, FDA will focus on trying to identify factors that contributed to contamination of romaine across multiple supply chains.  The agency is examining all possibilities, including that contamination may have occurred at any point along the growing, harvesting, packaging, and distribution chain before reaching consumers.

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