Nearing the eve of Thanksgiving Day, romaine lettuce has been recalled from the consumer market due to a new strain of E. coli that has sickened people in 11 states.
Health officials in both the United States and Canada are warning consumers not to eat romaine lettuce of any kind. That includes Spring mix, Caesar salads, any any other packaged salad containing romaine lettuce.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency hasn’t been able to issue a supplier recall, as they lack enough information as to where the outbreak is stemming from. He suggested grocery stores, supermarkets and restaurants withdraw romaine until the source has been identified.
The FDA said the outbreak has sickened 32 people in the United States and 18 people in Ontario and Quebec Canadian provinces. The last reported U.S. illness was reported on Oct. 31, while the most recent was in Canada earlier this month.
E. coli infections cause symptoms can come in the form of severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Though most people recover within a week, those with weak immune systems are at risk of severe health threat that may include hospitalization or even death.
There was another E. coli outbreak that prompted a romaine lettuce recall after sickening 200 people and killing five in the spring of this year. The outbreak was likely due to tainted irrigation water.
Chief science officer for the Produce Marketing Association, Robert Whitaker, indicated the current outbreak is larger in scope than the one earlier this year. The Yuma outbreak might have been more confusing to consumers, he said, which is why a direct call-to-action to remove romaine has been put in place.
Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said tracing contaminated produce is difficult because middlemen are the ones responsible for packaging it.
“One of the problems with produce is that it can be very hard to trace back,” she said.
At this time of year, romaine lettuce is primarily grown in California, which has the highest number of reported illnesses (11). The other states that reported an outbreak were Connecticut (1), Illinois (2), Massachusetts (2), Maryland (1), Michigan (7), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (3), New York (2), Ohio (1), and Wisconsin (1).
The FDA said restaurants, retailers and other food service operators are advised not to serve romaine lettuce until more is known about the outbreak. Consumers should not eat romaine, and should discard any romaine lettuce products they have until the source is determined.
In the meantime, if you or a loved one have contracted E. coli from eating romaine lettuce, we urge you to contact one of our food poisoning lawyers immediately. Compensation may be available.