UPDATE: National E. coli Outbreak Is Worsening, a Blanket Ban On Romaine Lettuce Is Recommended
UPDATE: The national recall of romaine lettuce has worsened since the FDA and CDC first traced an E.coli outbreak back to Arizona, and now both organizations are recommending a blanket ban on all romaine lettuce.
An additional five states have sprouted new cases, and health officials are reporting a hospitalization rate of more than 60 percent, which the CDC says is twice the normal rate.
The CDC released an update citing 53 confirmed E.coli sicknesses across 16 different states nationwide—more than 31 people needed to be rushed to the hospital stemming from romaine-related infections, and five of them have developed a rare kind of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome. The newest cases are popping up in Alaska, California, Louisiana, Montana, and Arizona itself.
Both the CDC and the FDA have doubled down in warning shoppers and home cooks about this massive recall. This is the first time in recent years, the agencies have recommend a blanket ban.
“If you cannot confirm the source of the romaine lettuce, do not buy it or eat it. If you have already purchased products containing chopped romaine lettuce, including bagged salads, salad mixes, or prepared salads, throw them away,” the FDA writes, in a new update released on Wednesday.
Health officials are wary of the everyday shopper's ability to effectively identify the at-risk romaine lettuce, which was produced specifically in Yuma, Arizona. And this particular recall is extra worrisome given that Arizona is one of the nation's leading providers of all kinds of produce: There are more than 1,300 farms in operation in the state with upwards of 26 million acres of farmland used to grow food, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
But with the FDA's formal warning, and reports of retailers pulling all romaine products and prepared salads from their shelves, it might be best to simply avoid romaine for the foreseeable future. If you're hungry for a Caesar salad, try using kale.
The original article, published on April 16, continues below:
It's the second time this year that Americans are being warned to stay away from romaine lettuce due to E.coli contamination, following a massive outbreak in January that killed one and sickened 50-plus others across the United States and Canada. The latest bout has affected 35 people in 11 different states.
But the outbreak might be even more worrisome as the tainted lettuce has made its way into prepared, ready-to-eat salads sold across the nation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that three people are being treated for a rare kidney failure known as "hemolytic uremic syndrome" after eating the contaminated lettuce. According to the agency, and with the help of the Food and Drug Administration, the source of the latest round of E.coli poisoning stems from romaine producers in the Yuma, Arizona region.
They haven't identified which grower, distributor, supplier, or even brand is responsible for spreading the sickness just yet.
More than 90 percent of those affected by the outbreak said they ate romaine lettuce before getting sick, including those served chopped salads at local restaurants. Before the CDC and FDA pinpointed the general source, some news outlets reported a possible link between Panera Bread salads and a few serious E.coli cases in New Jersey last week—but it's unclear if the salads served at these restaurants included lettuce grown in Arizona.
In addition to asking consumers to toss lettuce that has been purchased recently—especially products sourced from the Arizona region—the CDC says that there are a few pre-packaged salads and salad mixes that could be at risk.
Food Safety News reports that mixed salads available at regional grocery chain Market District have been compromised, including four different varieties under its in-house "Great to Go" brand. Some of the prepared meals that could be tainted include chicken caesar salad, chicken and bacon salad, and a chef's salad with ham, turkey, and hard-boiled eggs.
The CDC is still working to find which particular Arizona source is responsible for the E.coli outbreak, but you can see how this outbreak affects your area by taking a look at the up-to-date map of case counts published by the CDC right here. It'll help you avoid any chance of possibly falling ill, including suffering the seriously awful side effects of severe stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.