Romaine E. Coli Outbreak Plagues U.S. and Canada
Romaine lettuce is likely the source of an outbreak of E. Coli in the U.S. and Canada, this according to a number of health advocates who are calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to do more to bring an end to this outbreak. For their part, the FDA and CDC are warning consumers to be cautious, but unlike their counterparts in Canada who have publicly announced “the Public Health Agency of Canada has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada,” the FDA ad CDC are not yet ready to recommend an all-out ban on Romaine lettuce at this time.
Their reticence is understandable, but the risk is also very clear with at least 58 E. coli cases in the U.S. and Canada. In the United States alone, there are victims in at least 13 states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington State.
In the United States, the CDC has confirmed that at least five of the victims have been hospitalized and there has been one death. There was also a fatality in Canada.
Romaine E. Coli Outbreak Leads to Stores Removing Romaine Lettuce
Food safety advocates are warning people to avoid Romaine lettuce, or if they must consume it, to carefully wash it and all lettuce before doing so. Some stores and restaurants have also reported, out of an abundance of caution, to remove Romaine lettuce from their premises until the outbreak is over. The fear of sickening people is real, as is often the case with outbreaks linked to fruits and vegetables – in recent years one only has to think of the many outbreaks linked to consumption of various types of sprouts that have, as a result, disappeared from many menus. Like sprouts, lettuce is traditionally not subjected to heat treatment (cooking), which is the preferred method of killing such food borne pathogens. As such, careful washing becomes that much more vital and some fear is insufficient a safeguard.
The outbreak is of the most common of the food borne illness causing Shiga Toxin producing E. Coli, O157: H7. It causes severe stomach cramping, bloody diarrhea that is unmistakable, and sometimes vomiting. It can also lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can lead to kidney failure, transplant, or even death. The very young and the elderly are most susceptible to severe cases of E. coli and HUS.