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Don't eat romaine lettuce, CDC cautions after E. coli outbreak

“If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away," the CDC said.
Image: Romaine lettuce, Hollyhock garden, Cortes island, British Columbia, Canada
Chris Cheadle / Getty Images -- All Canada Photos

Federal health officials are warning about a fresh outbreak of E.coli linked to romaine lettuce Tuesday and cautioned people not to eat any romaine lettuce.

At least 32 people are sick, and 13 hospitalized in the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. No one has died.

“Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick,” the CDC said in a notice on its website.

“This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad,” the CDC added.

“If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.”

It’s the second outbreak of E. coli in romaine lettuce this year. An outbreak lasting several weeks in the spring killed five people and sickened 210 people in 36 states. It was eventually traced to contaminated canal water in a farming area in Yuma, Arizona.

This outbreak does not appear to be linked to the Yuma outbreak, the Food and Drug Administration said.

"While the strain of E. coli 0157:H7 seen in this outbreak is different than the one identified in the large outbreak in spring 2018 linked to romaine from the Yuma growing region, it does appear to be similar to the strain that caused a smaller outbreak linked to leafy greens that occurred in the fall of 2017 in both the U.S. and Canada," the FDA said.

"Since these prior outbreaks were identified, the FDA has been working closely with the leafy greens industry and other state and federal partners to implement safety practices that can help further reduce the risk of these types of outbreaks. As a direct response to the outbreaks we have seen, the agency will also begin a special effort to sample and test romaine lettuce for contamination throughout the market."

There's not enough information to identify a specific supplier yet, the FDA said, so it's safest to just thrown out all romaine lettuce for now.

E. coli is a common bacteria but there is a strain called 0157:H7 that can make people sick. Most patients suffer stomach cramps but the 0157 strain produces a toxin that can damage the kidneys and cause a potentially deadly condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome.