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The CDC is warning people to avoid romaine lettuce from Salinas, California. Getty Images
  • Romaine lettuce is being recalled due to an Escherichia coli (E. coli) outbreak that’s left 40 people sick across 16 states.
  • The lettuce tested positive for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 — a strain that causes diarrhea and vomiting.
  • This E.coli strain has been associated with multiple outbreaks that occurred in 2017 and 2018 from contaminated salad and lettuce products.

Health officials have announced a massive recall of romaine lettuce due to an Escherichia coli (E. coli) outbreak that’s left 40 people sick across 16 states.

The lettuce was tested by the Maryland Department of Health, which found the lettuce tested positive for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 — a strain that causes diarrhea and vomiting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising people not to eat any lettuce harvested in or around Salinas, California. If you have romaine lettuce at home and are unsure where it came from, it’s best to play it safe and toss it.

“This advice includes all types of romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and packages of precut lettuce and salad mixes which contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad,” the CDC stated last week.

Missa Bay LLC recalled 75,233 pounds of salad products on November 21 due to an E. coli contamination.

According to the company’s statement, the affected products were shipped to distribution locations in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The items, which included meat or poultry, were produced between Oct. 14, 2019, and Oct. 16, 2019, and have “Use By” dates ranging between Oct. 29, 2019, and Nov. 1, 2019.

They have the establishment number “EST. 18502B” inside the USDA mark of inspection on the packaging label.

You can view the entire list of recalled products here and view the packaging labels here.

If you bought the contaminated lettuce, health officials recommend throwing it out.

Health experts also advise against cooking with the contaminated lettuce.

“Lettuce is usually not cooked but heat does kill bacteria. Washing may not be sufficient to completely remove contamination,” says Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious diseases specialist and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

People infected with E. coli O157:H7 typically experience bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and painful stomach cramps.

While the majority of E. coli strains do not cause a problem and can resolve on their own in a week, others, including E. coli O157:H7, can lead to more serious symptoms including a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

“There are numerous strains of E. coli, and the majority do not cause a problem. For example, some strains can lead to urinary tract infections which are treated with routine antibiotics. But some strains such as Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC) can cause bloody diarrhea and lead to anemia, kidney failure, sepsis, and death,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, emailed in a statement.

The infection can spread from person to person so it’s crucial to be on top of your hygiene and handwashing.

“This typically occurs when an infected person does not wash his or her hands well after a bowel movement. E. coli can spread from an infected person’s hands to other people or even to objects,” Glatter wrote.

For HUS from E.coli, physicians focus on supportive care.

“There is no specific treatment for this type of E. coli infection and it is treated with supportive care such as intravenous fluids and dialysis for those who require it,” Adalja said.

The strain we’re seeing in the current outbreak is the same associated with multiple outbreaks that occurred in 2017 and 2018 from contaminated salad and lettuce products.

In 2018, the United States saw two multi-state E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks, which results in a combined 272 cases and five deaths. The 2017 outbreak caused 25 cases and one death.

According to Adalja, the string of outbreaks likely is due to how lettuce is harvested.

“Lettuce is a food that has many avenues for contamination to occur — the water used to irrigate it, the hands of the pickers, the machinery that places it into bags, etc.,” Adalja said.

In addition, the shape of lettuce may be ideal for the growth of bacteria.

“Lettuce is also a food that has an irregular surface that gives bacteria ample places to be located, many of which may be hard to completely clean with washing,” Adalja added.

The best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands frequently and consider nixing romaine lettuce this Thanksgiving if you’re not sure where it was harvested.

Health officials have announced a massive recall of romaine lettuce due to an Escherichia coli (E. coli) outbreak that’s left 40 people sick across 16 states. This is the same strain linked to two multi-state outbreaks in 2018 and one in 2017 that occurred because of contaminated lettuce. Health experts recommend throwing away romaine lettuce sourced in Salinas, California, and washing your hands frequently to stop the bacteria from spreading.