Update: Death linked to romaine lettuce as illness spreads to 25 states


The E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce has claimed its first victim, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week in an updated warning.

Not much is known about the person who died, other than that they lived in California. In recent days, the CDC has intensified its advisories about consuming romaine lettuce due to an outbreak of E. coli that has showed up in half of the United States.

The illnesses were initially traced to bagged, chopped lettuce from Yuma, Arizona. But now the agency says “no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has been identified” as the culprit. As a result, the CDC is telling people to stay away from romaine lettuce completely for now.

The agency said Wednesday that 23 more people from 10 states have gotten sick since the agency’s last update on April 27, 2018.

At least 121 people in 25 states have been sicken over the past few months, the CDC said, with 52 of them requiring hospitalization. New states that have reported E. coli cases include Kentucky, Massachusetts and Utah.

121 people ill from E. coli romaine lettuce — here’s how to stay safe

“Based on new information, CDC is expanding its warning to consumers to cover all types of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region,” the agency said last week.”This warning now includes whole heads and hearts of romaine lettuce, in addition to chopped romaine and salad mixes containing romaine.”

Of the 121 people sickened, 52 of them have been hospitalized, including “14 people who have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome,” the CDC said.

Now you may be thinking that premade salads and salad mixes may be all right, but the agency says if it contains any variety of romaine lettuce, it may be best not to eat it unless you know exactly where it’s from.

If you want to continue to buy romaine lettuce from a local retailer or produce dealer, here are four must-dos:

Romaine lettuce scare: 4 things you should do now

  • Before you go to your local grocery store and pick up some romaine lettuce or eat it at a restaurant, you should confirm with the store or eatery that it is not chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.
  • If you’ve already bought chopped romaine lettuce from anywhere in the United States, the CDC says you “should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.”
  • The CDC is also asking any restaurants not to sell romaine lettuce from the Yuma region.
  • Don’t know if it’s romaine? Throw it away. Better to be safe than sorry.

Here are some food-handling tips to reduce the risk of E. coli infection

If you’re determined to make your own salad, there are some things you should always keep in mind when handling lettuce, courtesy of the Canada Public Health Agency.

  • Wash your hands: For the best practice of hygiene, thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling lettuce.
  • Clean your lettuce: Spray it in your kitchen sink. Letting it soak won’t necessarily wash foreign material off the leaves.
  • Tidy up your eating area: Foodborne disease spreads when uncleaniness happens, so wash and wipe down where you eat.

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