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E. coli virus. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Multistate E. coli outbreak linked to chopped romaine lettuce

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local partners, have been investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli illnesses. The CDC reports 35 people have become ill between March 22nd to March 31st in 11 states – Connecticut (2), Idaho (8), Illinois (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (1), New Jersey (7), New York (2), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (9), Virginia (1) and Washington (1).

Preliminary information indicates 26 of 28 people interviewed reported consuming romaine lettuce in the week before their illness started. Most people 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 salads. At this time, ill people have not reported having eaten whole heads or hearts of romaine.

Officials say the prepared chopped romaine lettuce that ill people ate was likely grown or originated from the winter growing areas in Yuma, Arizona. This region generally supplies romaine to the U.S. during November-March each year. No specific grower, supplier, distributor or brand has been identified at this time. The FDA currently does not have information to indicate that whole-head romaine lettuce or hearts of romaine have contributed to this outbreak.

The FDA recommends consumers ask restaurants and other food service establishments where their romaine lettuce originated and avoid chopped romaine lettuce that originated from Yuma, Arizona. If you cannot confirm the source of the romaine lettuce, do not buy it or eat it. If you have already purchased products containing chopped romaine lettuce, including bagged salads, salad mixes or prepared salads, throw them away.

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