CDC warns of new romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak

Says romaine lettuce is unsafe to eat in any form

By Jon Johnson

WASHINGTON D.C. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning Tuesday urging consumers to throw away any romaine lettuce and advising restaurants to immediately stop serving it no matter if it is chopped, whole head, or part of a mix. The CDC said all romaine lettuce is currently unsafe to eat.

The warning came about in response to an outbreak in 11 states of a dangerous type of E. coli contamination. The new outbreak does not appear to be related to the Yuma outbreak from March to June, which killed five people and sickened 210 in 36 states. As of Tuesday, the CDC has not been able to trace the source of the contamination, which led to the broad warning.

“Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick,” the CDC said in the Food Safety Alert issued shortly before 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

“This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad,” the CDC said. “If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.”

According to the CDC, 32 people have been infected with a strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli 0157:H7 in 11 different states since Oct. 8, forcing 13 hospitalizations but as of Tuesday no deaths.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has also identified 18 people infected with the same strain of E. coli. This same type of E. coli was previously seen in the United States and Canada last year and was related to leafy greens in the U.S. and romaine lettuce in Canada.

The Shiga toxin can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, and can be easily fatal.

The cause of the outbreak is still under investigation.