Health officials have identified chopped romaine lettuce from the winter Yuma, Arizona growing region as the likely source of a multistate outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 infections. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local and state authorities began the investigation last month to identify what could have sickened 35 people in 11 states with Shinga toxin-producing E. coli.
Those who became infected with the strain of E. coli became ill from March 22 to March 31. Ninety three percent of these patients interviewed reported consuming romaine lettuce the week before their illness started. Most reported eating a salad at a restaurant, and romaine lettuce was the only common ingredient identified among the salads eaten. The restaurants reported using bagged, chopped romaine lettuce to make the salads. No specific grower, supplier, distributor, or brand as been identified at this time.
The FDA recommends that consumers ask restaurants and other food service establishments where their romaine lettuce originated and avoid chopped romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona. If the source of the romaine cannot be confirmed, do not buy it or eat it. Consumers who have purchased foods that contain chopped romaine lettuce, including bagged salads, salad mixes, or prepared salads, should throw them away.
The FDA is continuing to investigate this outbreak and will share more information as it becomes available.
E. coli symptoms vary from person to person but often include severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. If there is fever, it is usually not very high (less than 101 degrees). Most people get better within 5-7 days. Some infections are mild, but some can be severe or even life threatening.
About 5-10 percent of those who are diagnosed with Shinga toxin-producing E. coli infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS. Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, fatigue, decreased urination, unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. Most people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.
People with symptoms of HUS should seek emergency medical care immediately because their kidneys may stop working (acute renal failure). They may also develop other serious problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and neurologic problems.
FDA Outbreak Update