The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently expanded its E. coli outbreak warning to include all types of romaine lettuce, including whole heads and hearts of romaine, grown in the Yuma, Arizona, area.
Issued last week, the warning applied to many packaged and chopped forms of romaine, including salad mixes, and now any and all examples of the popular salad vegetable that cannot prove exactly where it was grown.
According to the CDC, eight new cases of acute gastroenteritis at a correctional facility in Nome, Alaska, join with 53 others in 16 states affected by the E. coli outbreak. Thirty-one have been hospitalized. Although no one has died, five developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of dangerous kidney failure that primarily affects children and can lead to irreversible brain damage.
"Because this outbreak involves a strain of E. coli bacteria that can lead to serious illness including kidney failure, state officials are asking Alaskans to follow CDC recommendations and avoid any romaine lettuce products that could be contaminated," according to a recent news release from the state of Alaska.
Even though the current E. coli cases are related to the Yuma, Arizona, growing area, labels are not legally required to inform consumers where the produce was grown. The CDC recommends that all romaine lettuce be immediately be thrown out and to avoid consuming the vegetable at restaurants unless the eatery is certain the lettuce was not grown in the Yuma area.
E. coli infection can cause stomach cramps, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Anyone who experiences such symptoms should visit a doctor immediately and report their case to local health and social services departments.
It can take up to three or four days for an infection to develop once someone is exposed to the bacteria. In addition, it can take a week for symptoms to clear up, although in severe cases, it can take longer.