Romaine Lettuce E. coli Outbreak Spreads; Source Still Unknown
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that the Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing region continues to expand.
As of yesterday, CDC confirmed 84 cases in 19 states with 42 hospitalizations. No deaths have been reported, and no food product or company has been forced to initiate a recall. However, a company by the name of Giant Eagle did voluntarily recall a variety of deli salad products and boxed lunches that contain romaine lettuce. Giant Eagle may have an ingredient supply partner in the Yuma, AZ area. Giant Eagle’s recall was announced out of an abundance of caution. There are no reported illnesses among Giant Eagle customers to date associated with their recall.
Despite narrowing down the region where the contaminated lettuce appears to have come from, health officials still have not identified the source(s) of the romaine lettuce.
Part of the difficulty in pinpointing a definitive source is lack of traceability. Fresh produce often lacks labels, barcodes, or even packaging that would lend itself to a traceback investigation.
The CDC is still encouraging consumers to avoid buying or eating romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, AZ, growing region. Product labels often do not identify growing regions, so do not eat or buy romaine lettuce if you do not know where it was grown. This advice 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 in a salad mix is romaine, do not eat it.
Restaurants and retailers are still being instructed to avoid serving or selling any romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing region. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. Restaurants and retailers should ask their suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce.