Target & Walmart Lettuce Hit By Nationwide E. Coli Outbreak

A new Thanksgiving tradition appears to be forming in the United States: a massive recalling of lettuce. 

After last year’s untimely recall of the entire nation’s supply of romaine lettuce, the same appears to be happening again this year. There has been a recall of romaine lettuce grown in Salinas, CA due to its carrying of E. coli.

The CDC first announced the outbreak on Friday, and repercussions have continued to show themselves throughout the weekend. As reported by Fox 11 Los Angeles, some of the nation’s biggest retailers have been clearing their shelves of all romaine lettuce originating from the central valley city. Target recently joined other mega-chains such as Walmart, Sam’s Club, Aldi, and Wegman’s in doing so.

However, before any store could act, there had already been 40 related cases reported in 16 different states, 28 of which have led to hospitalizations, and 5 of which have resulted in kidney failure. Luckily, though, no deaths have been reported in relation to the outbreak. 

The CDC suggests to throw away any remaining romaine lettuce whose packaging says it either originates in Salinas or has no mention of growing location.

Better to play it safe than introduce an E. Coli outbreak to the family.

Unfortunately, it looks like there won’t be any salad to slowly wilt away as everyone ignores it at this year’s Thanksgiving. But, on the bright side, that’s one less dish to worry about. 

Grocery Health News Packaged Food

Recent E. Coli Outbreak In Romaine Lettuce Is One Of The Worst In US History

Over the past few months, the romaine lettuce industry out in Yuma, Arizona has been weathering a severe E. Coli outbreak. While the immediate threat of food poisoning for consumers no longer exists, the newest numbers of who were affected by the CDC make it one of the worst in history.

e. coli outbreak

Based on the CDC’s latest report, at least 197 people fell ill across 35 states due to E. Coli O157:H7 found in the romaine. Of that number, 89 were hospitalized and 5 deaths were reported. At least 6 illnesses and another death linked to the same lettuce were also reported from Canada.

The spread and count of those infected is on par with the big spinach E. Coli O157:H7 scare that occurred in 2006. Considered to be the worst outbreak of its kind in modern US history, 238 illnesses were reported, with 103 hospitalized and 5 deaths.

Another similar massive food poisoning outburst with E. Coli O157:H7 occurred with Jack in the Box in early 90s, where over 700 got sick and 3 died.

This year’s romaine lettuce outbreak mirrors those numbers, giving it an unfortunate place as one of the worst and deadliest E. coli outbreaks in US history.

E. Coli O157:H7 is a special strain of the bacteria that produces a toxin that can induce something called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. This disease can lead to kidney failure, has a 5 percent mortality rate. 26 of those affected by the romaine poisonings developed this condition.

What’s concerning for the food industry is that E. Coli outbreaks have been reported in fresh produce. Beef is the normal item of concern with this bacteria, and proper heat treatment can kill off sufficient amounts to prevent food poisoning. Since lettuce isn’t typically heat-treated, though, the microbes can easily grow and induce toxicity.

There are some “cold pasteurization” methods that the industry does have that can potentially treat lettuce. One of those is irradiation, a food-safe burst of radiation that is already approved for usage in spinach and iceberg lettuce. Potential usage in romaine is unlikely, however, given that the dosage can produce some softening and ruin the lettuce’s texture. Consumers are also very against any form of radiation on their foods, meaning that even if romaine could be irradiated, it likely would not be bought.

Another potential technique the industry has in its arsenal is pulsed electric field treatments. Intermittent, quick blasts of electricity are used to kill or inactivate microbes without heating up the food significantly. It works well in liquids, but research on solid foods like romaine is still scant.

Hopefully, science can figure out how to use these or other methods to get rid of pathogenic E. coli on our produce. For now, though, we can breathe easy, as all of the romaine that may have been contaminated in this outbreak is long gone.

Health News Science

CDC Urges Entire U.S. To Throw Out Romaine Lettuce Because Of E. Coli

A massive, multi-state outbreak of E. Coli 0157:H7 in Romaine lettuce has pushed the CDC to take drastic measures. They’re now calling on the entire country to throw out their romaine if they’re not sure where it comes from.

Currently, 53 individuals have reported illnesses associated with the E. Coli outbreak, with the largest concentrations of disease occurring in Idaho and Pennsylvania.

In total, people in 16 different states have been involved with the contaminated lettuce, which the CDC knows to be coming from Yuma, Arizona. They appear to have not confirmed a single source from that area yet, so for now, they’re recommending that all romaine from the region be tossed out. This includes whole heads, leaves, chopped salads, and chopped pieces of lettuce.

If you don’t know where your romaine lettuce is from, the CDC advises that you toss it out regardless, even if any has been eaten without any ill effects. You should also scrub your fridge where any romaine has been present.

E. Coli 0157: H7 is a particularly nasty strain of bacteria because of some of the potential diseases it causes.

Most people will feel its effects within 1-10 days of exposure, and general symptoms will include vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea (which is often bloody).

Five to ten percent of those affected, however, can develop what’s known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. This condition appears about 7 days after symptoms begin, and impacts the kidney to the point where organ failure can occur. Those who develop HUS require hospitalization, but usually recover within a few weeks. The disease can prove to be fatal, however, making food poisoning involving E. Coli 0157:H7 even more of a concern.

For now, it’s best to avoid any romaine lettuce that comes from Yuma, Arizona, or whose origin is unknown, until more specific conclusions are reached by the CDC on this outbreak.

UPDATE: While no source has yet to be identified, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottleib announced in a tweet that Yuma’s lettuce season is nearing its end, meaning that any romaine lettuce likely on shelves now is from California. To be safe, though, consumers should continue to ask grocers and restaurants where their romaine comes from.

Health News Now Trending

Deadly Romaine Lettuce Outbreak Has Food Safety Experts Saying ‘Do Not Eat’

A deadly romaine lettuce outbreak is sweeping across the U.S. and Canada right now, and some food safety experts are encouraging people to avoid the leafy vegetable for the time being.

romaine lettuce outbreak

According to Consumer Reports, the outbreak has already infected 58 people in 13 states and Canada. Affected states include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington state. The Centers for Disease Control reports that of those 58 sick, five were hospitalized and one person has died. Another death linked to romaine has been confirmed in Canada, according to Food Safety News.

While the FDA and CDC are still investigating, Canadian health authorities have identified romaine lettuce as the outbreak source, and E. Coli 0157:H7 as the pathogen in question. This bacteria can cause something known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which can lead to serious illnesses, kidney failure, and even death.

The CDC has genetically matched the E. Coli affecting people in the US to the bacteria responsible for the same outbreak in Canada. They have stopped short of recommending that people avoid romaine lettuce, however.

However, James Rogers, PhD. (Consumer Report’s food safety and research director) is favoring the side of caution on this one.

“Even though we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that romaine lettuce is almost always consumed raw.”

Nobody has identified a single source of the potentially contaminated lettuce yet, so Consumer Reports says that folks should assume that all romaine lettuce poses an E. Coli risk until everything is sorted out. Until then, they recommend avoiding romaine lettuce products, including any already in your fridges plus salad mixes that contain the leafy vegetable.