2 Dead, 58 People Sickened After Getting E. Coli From One Type of Lettuce

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January 04, 2018Jan 04, 2018
Updated January 11 2018 11:39am ET

On Wednesday, January 10th, Consumer Reports released new information on the deadly E. coli outbreak in the United States and Canada. They are advising people to continue to avoid romaine lettuce.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there are seven new E. coli cases in the U.S., said ABC News. This makes it an ongoing outbreak.

"Since CDC’s initial media statement on December 28, seven more illnesses have been added to this investigation," said a CDC press release.

Matt Wise, head of the CDC’s Outbreak Response Team, said the CDC conducted interviews with 13 people who contracted E. coli. All reported eating leafy greens. Of the nine people who provided extra information, five recalled eating romaine lettuce in the week before they became ill.

However, the CDC has not been able to conclude with certainty that romaine lettuce was the source. Canada has already pointed to romaine lettuce as the source of its outbreak. The CDC, on the other hand, said the likely source of the U.S. outbreak appears to be leafy greens. However, it will not point the finger at romaine.

Across Canada and 15 states in the U.S., dozens have been infected and two people have died. Consumer Reports warned against eating romaine.

"We think it's important to avoid eating romaine until the cause of this outbreak is determined," said Jean Halloran, Consumer Reports Food Policy Expert.

Consumer Reports said it's important to remember it's not just the romaine found at the grocery store. They also warn consumers to be careful of lettuce from a cafeteria or restaurant.

"Some companies, like the fast food chain Wendy's, and Compass, the country's largest food service company, have voluntarily withdrawn all romaine lettuce for now," said Consumer Reports.

Original Story from January 4th 

The Today Show reported on Thursday that people should stay away from romaine lettuce for the time being. U.S. and Canadian health officials are currently trying to find the source of E. coli infections connected to Romaine lettuce consumption, Consumer Reports says.

The group is calling on the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do more to warn people about the outbreak. Today reports that, at last count, 58 people are sick in the U.S. and Canada. One person has died in Canada, while another has passed away in the United States.

The CDC last reported on the outbreak on December 28. At that time, it said 17 people were sick in 13 states. The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported 41 illnesses.

“The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada,” the CDC said in its Dec. 28 statement.

“In the United States, state and local public health officials are interviewing sick people to determine what they ate in the week before their illness started. CDC is still collecting information to determine whether there is a food item in common among sick people, including leafy greens and romaine,” it added.

The report continued, “Because we have not identified a source of the infections, CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food.”

Cooking thoroughly generally kills foodborne bacteria, such as E. coli or salmonella. Of course, lettuce isn't usually cooked.

“Even though we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that romaine lettuce is almost always consumed raw,” said James Roger, food safety director at Consumer Reports.

Consumers Union’s Jean Halloran said people should get stronger warnings.

“The FDA should follow the lead of the Canadian government and immediately warn the public about this risk,” she said.

“The available data strongly suggest that romaine lettuce is the source of the U.S. outbreak. If so, and people aren’t warned, more may get sick.”

While Health officials can't say for sure that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreaks in the U.S., Consumer Reports is warning people to avoid eating the raw lettuce for now.

“Whole genome sequencing is being performed on samples of bacteria making people sick in the United States to give us information about whether these illnesses are related to the illnesses in Canada. Preliminary results show that the type of E. coli making people sick in both countries is closely related genetically, meaning the ill people are more likely to share a common source of infection,” the CDC said.

Consumer Reports is advising people to err on the side of caution. They're instructing people to throw away romaine lettuce.

“Neither the U.S. nor Canadian health officials have provided information on where the romaine lettuce potentially involved in the illnesses was grown or processed, so for now, Consumer Reports says consumers should assume that any romaine lettuce, even when sold in bags and packages, could possibly be contaminated,” it advised.

“Do not buy romaine lettuce and don’t use any that you may have in your refrigerator until there is more information on the source of contamination. Consumers should also check salad blends and mixes, and avoid those that contain romaine.”

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