The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday warned the public should not eat romaine lettuce as a result of a multistate E. coli outbreak.
At least 32 people have gotten sick and 13 have been hospitalized as a result of an outbreak believed to be connected to romaine lettuce, according to the FDA. So far, 11 states have reported cases, the latest onset of which was dated Oct. 31.
“People should not eat romaine lettuce until more is known about the source of the contaminated lettuce and the status of the outbreak,” the federal agency said.
The FDA, along with CDC, state and local agencies, is investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses likely linked to romaine lettuce. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and Canadian Food Inspection Agency, are also coordinating with U.S. agencies as they investigate a similar outbreak in Canada.
FDA is investigating a multistate #outbreak of E. coli illnesses linked to romaine lettuce. We are conducting a traceback investigation to determine the source of romaine lettuce eaten by people who became sick https://t.co/bytRINr2D6 pic.twitter.com/YMcumL25G8
— FDA FOOD (@FDAfood) November 20, 2018
Genetic analysis of the E. coli O157:H7 strains tested to date from patients in this current outbreak are similar to strains of E. coli O157:H7 associated with a previous outbreak from the Fall of 2017 that also affected consumers in both Canada and the U.S. The 2017 outbreak of E. coliO157:H7 was associated with leafy greens in the U.S. and romaine in Canada. This year, romaine lettuce is the suspected vehicle for both the U.S. and Canadian outbreaks. There is no genetic link between the current outbreak and the E.coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine that occurred in the Spring of 2018.
The FDA is conducting a traceback investigation to determine the source of the romaine lettuce eaten by people who became sick. Additionally, FDA and states are conducting laboratory analysis of romaine lettuce samples potentially linked to the outbreak.
The most recent illness onset in the U.S. among these cases was October 31, 2018. For this outbreak investigation, the average interval between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to CDC is 20 days.
My Statement on romaine outbreak: We’re taking quick steps to make sure we get ahead of this emerging outbreak to reduce risk to consumers; help people protect themselves and families from foodborne illness outbreak, especially ahead of Thanksgiving meals https://t.co/fGAWERv9K1 pic.twitter.com/sspWeUrvNC
— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) November 20, 2018
What Products are Recalled?
Currently, the FDA does not have enough traceback information to identify the source of the contamination that would allow us to request a targeted recall from specific suppliers. At this stage in the investigation, the most efficient way to ensure that contaminated romaine is off the market would be for industry to voluntarily withdraw product from the market, and to withhold distribution of romaine until public health authorities can ensure the outbreak is over and/or until FDA can identify a specific source of contamination. Until then, the FDA advises that consumers should not eat and discard romaine, or any mixed salads containing romaine, until more information on the source of the contamination and the status of the outbreak can be determined.
The symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing (STEC) E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. If there is fever, it is usually not very high (less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit/less than 38.5 degrees Celsius). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.
Around 5–10 percent of those who are diagnosed with STEC infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. Most people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die. People who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately. Persons with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working (acute renal failure), but they may also develop other serious problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and neurologic problems.
Who is at Risk?
People of any age can become infected with Shiga toxin-producing (STEC) E. coli. Children under the age of 5 years, adults older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness, including HUS, but even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill.
What Do Restaurants and Retailers Need To Do?
Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators should not serve romaine lettuce until more is known about this outbreak.
Restaurants and retailers should always practice safe food handling and preparation measures. It is recommended that they wash hands, utensils, and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling food.
- Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators regularly.
- Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to prepare, serve, or store food.
- Wash hands with hot water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
Regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of food contact surfaces and utensils used in food preparation may help to minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.
What Do Consumers Need To Do?
The FDA advises that consumers should not eat and discard romaine, or any mixed salads containing romaine, until more information on the source of the contamination and the status of the outbreak can be determined.
Consumers should always practice safe food handling and preparation measures. It is recommended that they wash hands, utensils, and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling food.
The agency is taking “quick and aggressive” measures regarding the outbreak, which was announced just days before the Thanksgiving holiday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.
“While we’ve made progress, it’s still early in this investigation and work remains to pinpoint the source of contamination that contributed to this outbreak and allow us to employ more targeted measures to reduce future risk,” Gottlieb said. “This isn’t the first romaine outbreak we have seen in the recent past, and we will continue to take steps to identify the root causes of these events and take action to prevent future outbreaks.”
“We’re committed to working with our partners to implement additional safety practices so that we’ll be better positioned to prevent outbreaks like this from occurring. In the meantime, we’ll continue to take action around this outbreak to help protect American consumers from eating potentially contaminated romaine lettuce as our current investigation unfolds,” Gottlieb continued.
H/T FOX NEWS
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