On Friday, August 19, 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an investigation notice concerning a recent outbreak of E. coli infections in several north eastern states. The investigation is currently ongoing and the food source of the outbreak has not yet been definitively determined, however, many of the people who have become sick reported having eaten sandwiches with romaine lettuce at Wendy’s restaurants prior to experiencing symptoms. In response to this initial data, Wendy’s is taking the necessary precaution of removing the romaine lettuce used in their sandwiches for the time being. Food health and safety officials are working to collect and examine data to determine whether or not the romaine lettuce used at Wendy’s restaurants is the source of the outbreak. In the case that romaine lettuce is the source of the outbreak, health officials will investigate whether or not this lettuce is being sold at other retailers or restaurants.
To date, there have been 37 cases of E. coli infection that may be connected to the consumption of romaine lettuce. At the present moment, the known cases connected to this outbreak are in the states of Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. There have been 10 hospitalizations and no deaths due to the outbreak. The first case of infection connected with this outbreak was reported on July 26, 2022, and the most recent case was reported on August 8, 2022. However, the CDC says that the true number of cases involved in the outbreak is likely much higher, as it takes an average time of 3-4 weeks to investigate and conclude whether or not an ill person is part of the specific outbreak.
Currently, the CDC is not recommending that people stop eating at Wendy’s or even that they avoid eating romaine lettuce. Once health officials identify the likely food source of the outbreak, the CDC will notify the public of any food they should not consume.
E. coli is a type of bacteria that causes gastrointestinal infection. People become infected with E. coli by consuming food or water that is contaminated with the bacteria. Most people are able to recover from an E. coli infection within 5-7 days, however, some people, such as those with weakened immune systems, may experience a severe onset of the illness and even life-threatening complications.