Update 5/17/18: The CDC came very close to saying that the E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce is over. The agency is no longer telling people to throw away romaine if they can't confirm where it's from because people probably don't have any affected lettuce grown in Arizona as the harvest season there is now over. The CDC says on its site that "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." Thus far, 172 people got sick across 32 states; 75 people were hospitalized and one person died.
Update 4/26/18: The E. coli outbreak is now the largest foodborne multistate outbreak since 2006 , according to the CDC. There are now 84 people infected across 19 states; half of them have been hospitalized and nine have developed kidney failure. The CDC's advice remains the same as it was on Friday: if you can't confirm that your romaine lettuce did not come from the Yuma, Arizona, region, do not eat it.
Update 4/20/18: On Friday afternoon, the CDC expanded its warning about romaine lettuce linked to an E. Coli outbreak that's now sickened at least 60 people in 16 states. The CDC is advising people not to eat any type of romaine lettuce. This warning includes hearts and heads of romaine, which were not included in the previous warning. At least 31 people have been hospitalized and 5 people have developed kidney failure. The agency thinks all of the contaminated products are coming from the Yuma, Arizona, region, but is telling people to avoid all romaine—in grocery stores and restaurants—if they can't confirm it's not from that area. Specifically, the CDC says:
Do not buy or eat romaine lettuce at a grocery store or restaurant unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region...Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, throw out any romaine lettuce if you’re uncertain about where it was grown. This 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 is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.
A pair of food recalls may mean you should be cleaning out your fridge.
Since late last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been monitoring a multi-state outbreak of E. coli, which has infected at least 35 people across 11 states. Twenty-two people needed to be hospitalized, including three people who developed a type of kidney failure. More than 90 percent of the people the CDC interviewed said they’d eaten romaine lettuce a week before their symptoms started, many of them at restaurants.
The case is separate from another E. coli outbreak that struck late last year, sickening people across 15 states and killing at least one person. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that though the same strain has caused both outbreaks—it’s known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli—the bacteria’s DNA fingerprints are different. The agency believes the latest illnesses stem from lettuce harvested during the winter growing season in Yuma, Arizona, but it hasn’t identified a particular grower, supplier, distributor, or brand.
Now the CDC is specifically pointing to chopped romaine lettuce as the likely culprit. As the FDA continues to investigate the outbreak, it’s encouraging consumers to avoid any chopped romaine sourced from that area, and throw away any whose source is unknown, including bagged lettuce and salad mixes. (Always know your lettuce dealer.) But Consumer Reports, for one, notes the difficulty in truly knowing the origin of your lettuce and recommends that you just avoid romaine all together (including romaine hearts and whole heads of romaine) until further notice.
One Pennsylvania company has already recalled 8,800 of pounds ready-to-eat salads that contain romaine lettuce. They’re sold in Giant Eagle and Market District stores in four states and labeled “Great to Go by Market District”). According to a release posted on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, the products were produced between April 9 and 12 and have a shelf life of four days. If your salad is on the list, throw it out and you can take your receipt to the store for a refund.
It’s worth noting here that E. coli is no joke. According to the FDA, symptoms include severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. It usually provokes a low-grade fever, and most people recover in about a week. But some cases can be severe, even life-threatening. Around 5 to 10 percent of people develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS); most recover in a few weeks, but some can suffer permanent damage, including kidney failure, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and neurologic problems. As with most bacterial infections, young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are most susceptible.
And as if potential danger in your lettuce wasn’t enough, the FDA also announced a massive recall of eggs for possible salmonella contamination. Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, Indiana, has voluntarily recalled nearly 207 million potentially contaminated eggs distributed under various brand names in nine states: Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. To date, 22 people have reported getting sick.
Salmonella, if you’ve never had the pleasure, can cause fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare cases, it can infect the blood as well, causing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis, and arthritis. So, check the brands listed on the recall notice and throw out those eggs or take them back to the store for a refund.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of Tonic delivered to your inbox weekly.