Coli outbreak traced to romaine lettuce

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"Information collected to date indicates that chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region could be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and could make people sick", the CDC said in the statement, adding the outbreak started on March 22.

States that have reported people infected with the E. coli strain include Washington, Idaho, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and MI.

Consumers anywhere in the USA who have store-bought chopped romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes, should not eat it and throw it away - even if you have eaten some of it already.

In another development, a group of five produce grower trade groups issued a joint statement on April 14 that said its members are cooperating with government investigators and are working closely to identify the source of the outbreak tied to chopped romaine from the Yuma, Ariz., growing area, adding that almost all romaine being harvested and shipped now is from California areas not implicated in the outbreak.

Mild E. coli symptoms - stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea - can last from five to seven days.

According to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, three cases of E. coli illnesses are linked to a multi-state E. coli outbreak.

Symptoms usually vary from person to person. However, illnesses can start anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure.

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Symptoms of E. coli typically begin two to eight days after consuming the bacteria, although most patients become ill three or four days after consumption. Twenty-two hospitalizations have occurred as a result of the outbreak, though luckily no deaths have been reported.

Lettuce from restaurants is suspected to be affected, as well as bagged and pre-chopped lettuce from stores. Read CDC's advice to consumers, restaurants, and retailers.

However, Consumer Reports is advising against consumers purchasing any romaine lettuce regardless of where it's grown while the outbreak is ongoing, including unbagged romaine or hearts of romaine. The outbreak is the same potentially deadly strain of E. coli, 0157:H7, that occurred late a year ago in the US and Canada, but the CDC does not believe it is connected with the earlier outbreak.

The FDA, in conjunction with federal, state, and local partners, found that the chopped romaine in question was grown or originated from the winter growing areas in Yuma, Arizona.

"Consumer Reports is making this recommendation given the potentially fatal consequences of E. coli, the fact that there are still several unknowns about this outbreak, and that no type of romaine has been ruled definitively safe by government officials", Consumer Reports Director of Food Safety Research and Testing James E. Rogers, Ph.D., said.

The current outbreak is not related to a recent multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to leafy greens.

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