CDC: Do Not Eat Romaine Lettuce From Here, E. Coli Outbreak Gets Worse

Food & Drink

You know that Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak that I reported on for Forbes early Thursday? Well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just lettuce know some more information. And it doesn’t look good for the romaine empire.

It was originally thought that a specific lot of Ready Pac Foods Bistro® Chicken Caesar Salad was to blame for the outbreak. Ah, but that belief was so yesterday. This no longer seems to be just a fail Caesar salad situation. Instead, the contamination appears to be much broader. The CDC’s latest advice is to not sell or eat any romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California, growing region, whether it’s in your salad, on its own, in a box, with a fox, in your house, with a mouse, or under any other situation.

The reported size of the outbreak has not romained the same either. Yesterday now seems so far away. Since my previous report, the size of the outbreak has jumped from 17 reported cases to 40, and twice as many states (16 versus eight) are now involved. There have also been four-times as many hospitalizations (28 up from seven). Fortunately, no one seems to have died yet from the outbreak. However, already five have suffered hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). As I mentioned before, HUS is kidney failure that is a serious and potentially life-threatening complication of E. coli O157:H7 infection.

If you got your romaine from Missa Bay, LLC., you may want to ask for a refund. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the company has issued a recall of approximately 75,233 pounds of its salad products due to concerns about E. coli O157:H7, contamination. Check to see if your salad products were produced from October 14 to October 16, 2019, and bear the establishment number “EST. 18502B.” These products went to a wide range of states, including Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.

If the romaine lettuce industry was hoping to recover from the 2018 E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks, this is certainly not the way to do it. Some in the twitterverse are now questioning the presence of romaine in their diets:

Of course, you don’t want to go too far with the concerns about romaine in general:

Nonetheless, the continuing issues with romaine does make you wonder if a closer look is needed at how romaine is grown, harvested, and monitored:

This doesn’t quite explain why there seems to have been more issues with romaine lettuce and more foodborne outbreaks in general since 2017. We can’t just leave these issues be. Food safety is a major concern. Outbreaks of bacteria like E. coli O157:H7 can significantly harm and even kill people. As they say, once may be an accident. Twice may still be a coincidence. However, three times is a trend.  

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