According to reports by Disease Control and Prevention Center, more than 11 states in the US are suffering from a mysterious E. Coli outbreak since March. Health experts have now finally been able to pin down the source behind the spreading of the bacteria which has made dozens of people sick: a seemly-innocent band of leafy greens, romaine lettuce.
After finding the culprit, food manufacturers across several states have recalled almost 9,000 pounds of lettuce and salad mixes.
Romaine Lettuce Contaminated with E. Coli
After a nationwide announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture about a possible E. Coli threat from lettuce and salad products last Friday, Pennsylvania-based food manufacturing company called Fresh Co. recalled its entire stock of prepackaged salads and romaine lettuce due to a high contamination threat that could make consumers sick with illnesses related to the highly contagious bacteria.
After a thorough examination of the recalled products, the agriculture department said that none of the salads were contaminated by E. Coli. The ready-to-eat recalled products had a sell-by dates between April 13 and 16, and experts say that its highly unlikely that there was any link between the products and the outbreak which began in mid-March.
However, the Food and Drug Administration speculated that the outbreak could have been caused ready-to-eat bags of chopped romaine lettuce which were grown in Arizona and Southern California. No specific farms or distribution companies responsible for the outbreak have been identified by the FDA yet.
11 States Affected by the Outbreak
More than 35 cases of E. Coli-related sicknesses in 11 different states have emerged ever since the contaminated lettuce was distributed across the country; of the infected, 22 patients have been hospitalized due to severity of their condition while three have suffered from kidney failures. According to the Disease Control and Prevention Center, the outbreak has not caused any fatalities.
All 35 cases were reported between March 22 and 31, and the one thing these patients had in common was that they had all consumed romaine lettuce within a week of contraction the illness. Some of them admitted to eating salads at restaurants which contained romaine lettuce. After investigating, it was found that these restaurants had used pre-chopped bags of lettuce in their foods, which may have triggered the outbreak.
Although the E. Coli cases were scattered across 11 different states including Connecticut, New York, Illinois and Washington, the highest numbers were reported in the states of Idaho and Pennsylvania. Montana and Arizona have also reported three cases of E. Coli each, although health officials say that none of them are linked to the outbreak.
People Advised to Stay Away from Lettuce
Consumers around the country are advised to stay away from romaine lettuce or any pre-packaged salad mixes until food safety officials are able to track down farms and companies responsible for the supply of the contaminated vegetable. Officials in Yuma have also advised restaurants and retailers to refrain from selling any salad products that may contain traces of romaine lettuce.
The initial phase of the investigation revealed that the outbreak is only linked to pre-packaged chopped romaine lettuce grown only on farms in Yuma. All other types of lettuces grown in other parts of the country have shown no signs of contamination. The industry leaders made a joint statement saying that the number of cases in the E. Coli breakout were relatively low since most of the romaine lettuce distributed throughout the country is grown in California, which isn’t affected by the contamination.
When Can E. Coli Be Deadly?
Although E. Coli, which is usually found in raw milk products, undercooked meats, and contaminated water, isn’t considered a serious illness, some types of this bacteria including E. coli O157: H7 can become extremely dangerous if not treated immediately.
Health commissioner, Shereef Elnahal, says that E. Coli can be deadly in some cases if effective treatment is not provided which is why the health department is doing everything in its power to prevent the spread of the bacteria and ensure that the outbreak doesn’t occur again.