Health officials are warning consumers that romaine lettuce is not safe to eat and is currently under investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the lettuce is linked to an E. coli outbreak that’s infected 32 people, including 13 who have been hospitalized, in 11 different states..
So far, cases have been reported in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. There have also been 18 people infected by the same E. coli bacteria in Ontario and Quebec, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The last illness was reported on October 31 and as of today, no deaths have been reported.
Government officials have noted that the strain of E. coli currently being studied by the FDA is not the same one that caused the outbreak earlier this year, but is similar to the one from fall 2017. They have not yet determined the exact cause of the virus. However, a statement issued by the agency on November 1 revealed “the water from the irrigation canal where the outbreak strain was found most likely led to contamination of the romaine lettuce consumed during this outbreak.”
FDA is investigating a multistate #outbreak of E. coli illnesses linked to romaine lettuce. We are conducting a traceback investigation to determine the source of romaine lettuce eaten by people who became sick https://t.co/bytRINr2D6 pic.twitter.com/YMcumL25G8
— FDA FOOD (@FDAfood) November 20, 2018
While FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that there’s not yet enough information to issue a total recall, consumers should avoid eating any romaine products and throw them away immediately. These include “whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, such as spring mix and Caesar salad.” The FDA also recommends that anyone who had romaine in their refrigerator should wash and sanitize the areas where it was stored.
Additionally, the agency is urging stores to remove any romaine products from their shelves until further notice, which hopefully is sooner rather than later, says Gottlieb. He tweeted, “We’re taking quick steps to make sure we get ahead of this emerging outbreak.”