This is the largest Shiga-toxin producing E. coli outbreak since a 2006 outbreak linked to spinach grown in California that killed three and sickened 270 people.
According to CDC, 46 patients have been hospitalized and 10 patients have a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 13, 2018 to April 20, 2018. Ill people range in age from 1 to 88 years, with a median age of 31. No grower, supplier, distributor or brand has been identified as the outbreak’s source.
During a press briefing today, Matthew Wise, Ph.D., M.P.H., CDC deputy branch chief for Outbreak Response, said: “We have many lines of evidence suggesting to us right now that all of these illnesses are connected in some way through romaine grown in the Yuma region of Arizona.”
The recall now includes whole heads and hearts of romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region, in addition to chopped romaine and salads and salad mixes containing romaine. The agency is advising consumers to throw out any store-bought romaine lettuce unless they are certain about where it was grown. CDC also is warning restaurants and retailers not to serve or sell any romaine lettuce from the growing region. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce.
FDA has identified Harrison Farms of Yuma as the grower and sole source of the whole-head romaine lettuce that sickened several people in an Alaska correctional facility, but has not determined where in the supply chain the contamination occurred. The agency is examining all possibilities, including that contamination may have occurred at any point along the growing, harvesting, packaging and distribution chain before reaching the Alaska correctional facility where it was served.
All of the lettuce in question from Harrison Farms was harvested during March 5-16 and is past its 21-day shelf life. Because the growing season in the Yuma region is at its end, the farm is not growing any lettuce at this time. The remainder of illnesses in this outbreak are not linked to romaine lettuce from Harrison Farms. The agency is investigating dozens of fields as potential sources of the chopped romaine lettuce and will share additional information as it becomes available.