Tainted lettuce grown in Yuma blamed for multi-state E. coli outbreak

Due in part to its mild winters, Yuma has become a major source of winter vegetables. Recently, the region has been blamed for an E. coli outbreak in 11 states relating to its romaine lettuce.

ADHS advises residents to not eat chopped romaine lettuce and to throw it away
Three Arizona residents are confirmed with E. coli related to a multi-state outbreak

By Jon Johnson


YUMA – Romaine lettuce grown in Yuma is suspected of hospitalizing at least 22 people in a multistate E. coli outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

On Friday, the CDC posted an alert on its Facebook page with a picture of the lettuce advising consumers to check where the lettuce came from before purchasing or consuming it. The post advised that if it came from the Yuma growing region or if the sellers or restaurants didn’t know where it came from to not purchase or eat it.

The first cases were reported in late March, with at least nine people sickened in Pennsylvania, eight people in Idaho, and seven in New Jersey, according to the CDC. To date, 38 cases have been reported in 12 states, including three in Arizona. However, a common grower, supplier, or brand has not been identified as the source. 

Yuma supplies most of the winter greens for the nation, but with the spring the lettuce increases from California, which is not affected by the outbreak.

The CDC’s website advises that it can take three to four days to become ill after eating food tainted by E. coli and that most people experience diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, and vomiting but usually recover within a week. 

The following is a news release from the Arizona Department of Health.

ADHS advises residents to not eat chopped romaine lettuce and to throw it away

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) is advising residents to not eat and dispose of store-bought chopped romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration indicated a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157 is likely associated with chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. Three cases of E. coli in Arizona have been linked to this multistate outbreak.

E. coli can cause serious illness, so it is critical that everyone take precautions by not eating store-bought chopped romaine lettuce, even if you or someone from you family has consumed the product and did not get sick,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “If you or someone from your family recently ate store-bought chopped romaine lettuce and are experiencing symptoms, please seek medical treatment immediately.”

Symptoms of E. coli O157 include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), and abdominal pain. E. coli O157 infection ranges from mild to severe, with symptoms lasting about five to seven days in most people. Young children, the elderly, and the immune-compromised are at risk of developing Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a potentially life-threatening illness that can cause kidney failure.

The CDC and the FDA are also advising people that before they eat lettuce from a restaurant to confirm that the product used to prepare the meal is not chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. ADHS is working with local health departments, the CDC, and the FDA to confirm the source of the E. coli O157 infections, to identify additional cases, and to prevent the spread of the disease.

To prevent foodborne illness, ADHS advises everyone to thoroughly wash hands with soap and water prior to food preparation or consumption, and after using the toilet. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating or handling. Avoid cross-contamination of food during preparation by washing hands, cutting boards, utensils, and any food preparation surfaces.