The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending against buying or eating any romaine lettuce at a grocery store or restaurant unless it can be confirmed that the lettuce did not come from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.
This warning comes after 53 people from 16 states (including one in California) were found to be infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. Of those infected, 31 were hospitalized, including five people who have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. No deaths have been reported as of Friday.
“Unless the source of the product is known, consumers anywhere in the United States who have any store-bought romaine lettuce at home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. 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,” states the CDC on its E. coli 0157:H7outbreak webpage.
Steve Alameda, president of the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association, told the Associated Press that the outbreak has weighed heavily on him and other farmers.
“We want to know what happened,” Alameda told the AP. “We can’t afford to lose consumer confidence. It’s heartbreaking to us. We take this very personally.”
According to the CDC, people usually get sick from toxin-producing E. coli two to eight days after swallowing the germ. Signs and symptoms of the illness include diarrhea that can be bloody, severe stomach cramps and vomiting.
Most people infected with E. coli, recover within one week, however, some infections can be severe or life-threatening. Some people with an E. coli infection may get a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS can occur in people of any age but is most common in children younger than 5 years, adults aged 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems. HUS develops about 7 days after symptoms first appear, when diarrhea is improving. Clues that someone is developing HUS include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids.
People with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems. Most people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.