Public health and food safety officials in the U.S. and Canada are investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli O157:H7) infections linked to romaine lettuce.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a food safety alert today in which it advises consumers not to eat romaine lettuce. Retailers and restaurants are instructed not to serve or sell romaine until more is known about the outbreak. A source of contamination has not yet been identified.
To date, a total of 32 cases have been reported in 11 states. It is believed these exposures occurred in October.
The CDC recommends:
- Discarding romaine lettuce in any form after wrapping it in a protective covering such as plastic, even if some of it was eaten and no one got sick.This includes whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of pre-cut lettuce and salad mixes.
- Washing the refrigerator in which romaine lettuce has been stored with hot soap and water. Dishes that have come into contact with romaine lettuce should also be sanitized.
- Getting professional advice if you experience symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and extreme fatigue:
- Talk to your healthcare provider.
- Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.
- Report your illness to the local health department.
- Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness
Symptoms typically appear within three to four days after consuming Shiga E. coli bacteria, but may occur within one to 10 days. Certain types of bacteria can cause serious illness requiring hospitalization.