News and Stories

FOOD SAFETY UPDATE: Outbreak of E. coli Infections Linked to Romaine Lettuce

November 28, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health and regulatory officials in several states, Canada, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are continuing to investigate a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7) infections linked to romaine lettuce.

As part of this investigation FDA has been conducting a trace back and reviewing shipping records and invoices to trace the supply of romaine from the place where ill people were exposed to the place where that romaine was grown. Preliminary traceback information indicates that ill people in several areas across the country were exposed to romaine lettuce harvested in California. Specifically, current evidence indicates this romaine was harvested in the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. Included in these regions are the counties of Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura. Additional counties may be added as the FDA traceback develops.

What we know:

  • FDA is advising that U.S. consumers not eat, and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any romaine lettuce from the implicated regions in central California.
    • Implicated regions: Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura Counties
  • Romaine lettuce harvested in the following locations (outside of the central California regions identified by the traceback investigation) does not appear to be related to the current outbreak: desert growing region near Yuma, the California desert growing region near Imperial County and Riverside County, the state of Florida, Mexico and hydroponically-and greenhouse-grown romaine
    • There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine harvested from these regions
  • Based on discussions with producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date or labeled as being hydroponically-or greenhouse-grown
    • If romaine products do not have this information, you should not eat or use it
    • Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
  • As of November 26, 2018, there have been 43 ill people reported from 12 states in the United States
    • Illnesses started on dates ranging from October 8, 2018 to October 31, 2018.
    • Sixteen people have been hospitalized, including one person who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.
  • There are an additional 22 confirmed cases in Canada as of November 23, 2018 reported from 3 provinces
    • Individuals became sick between mid-October and early November 2018
    • Eight individuals have been hospitalized, including one person who developed HUS. No deaths have been reported
  • More illnesses may be reported as the investigation continues due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill with E. coli infection and when the illness is reported
  • This investigation is ongoing and the advice will be updated as more information is available.

For more information on the ongoing outbreak investigation please visit the CDC, FDA and Health Canada websites.

Markon will continue to update members when more information becomes available.

Angie Ramirez

Food Safety Program Manager

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