E. coli warning now applies to all types of romaine lettuce: CDC

NEW YORK — A warning about E. coli-contaminated romaine lettuce has grown to cover all types of the leafy green vegetable, and not just pre-chopped versions as previously had been the case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Federal officials say no one should buy or eat any romaine lettuce — whole heads and hearts, chopped and salads and salad mixes that contain romaine lettuce — from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region.

Consumers are told to throw away any romaine lettuce they have in their refrigerators and to not buy or eat any romaine lettuce at a grocery store or restaurant unless they can confirm it’s not from that growing region.

“Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, throw out any romaine lettuce if you’re uncertain about where it was grown,” the CDC said.

So far, at least 53 people have been sickened in 16 states:

Alaska; Arizona; California; Connecticut; Idaho; Illinois; Louisiana; Michigan; Missouri; Montana; New Jersey; New York; Ohio; Pennsylvania; Virginia; and Washington.

Thirty-one of those patients were so ill, they had to be hospitalized and five of them developed kidney failure, the CDC said.

Several new cases of E. coli have emerged at a prison in Alaska, according to officials in that state.

It was these newly reported illness that sparked the expanded warning, the CDC said. Those patients reported eating from whole heads of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region.

The number of cases could grow, because it takes an average of two to three weeks between when a person becomes sick with E. coli and when the illness is reported.

While most strains of the bacteria E. coli are harmless, others can cause serious illness. The strain linked to chopped romain lettuce is a Shinga toxin-producing E. coli, which can cause severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, the CDC said.

It can be spread through consuming contaminated water or food or through contact with infected people or animals.

Most people start feeling sick 3 to 4 days after eating or drinking food contaminated with the bacteria, but it can take up to 10 days for symptoms to start. Patients usually get better within 5 to 7 days.

If diarrhea lasts more than 3 days or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool or so much vomiting that the patient cannot keep down liquids, a doctor must be called, the agency said.

This current outbreak is not related to the recent multi-state outbreak of E. coli that had been linked to leafy greens in December 2017. In that instance, 25 people were sickened and one person died.