Romaine Lettuce Recalled Amid E. coli Outbreak

Freshway Foods of Sidney, Ohio, just announced a recall of certain Shredded Romaine Lettuce products due to a possible connection between the recalled Shredded Romaine Lettuce and an outbreak of <"">food poisoning, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration just reported. The agency said it supports this action by Freshway Foods.

Meanwhile, the outbreak, which is still under investigation, involves cases in Michigan, Ohio, and New York of illnesses due to infection with E. coli O145, a harmful bacteria. On May 5, 2010, the New York state Public Health Laboratory, Wadsworth Center, in Albany reported finding E. coli O145 pathogen in an unopened bag of Freshway Foods Shredded Romaine Lettuce.

Multiple lines of evidence have implicated the Shredded Romaine Lettuce from one processing facility as a source of infections in a multi-state outbreak to which this recall may be related. According to New York magazine, a total of 25 states are involved with at least 19 illnesses involving 12 hospitalizations. Three of the illnesses involve a potentially life threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS is a serious condition in which the body’s blood-clotting mechanisms are altered, causing blocked circulation or bleeding in the brain or kidneys. The FDA, said New York magazine, is focusing on Arizona-grown Romaine Lettuce.

A Freshway Foods press release says the recalled Shredded Romaine Lettuce was sold to wholesalers, food service outlets, and some in-store salad bars and delis in Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The FDA warns that symptoms of infection with harmful E. coli may range from none to mild diarrhea to severe complications. Acute symptoms include severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which may be bloody; patients may progress to serious complications, such as kidney damage. FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage anyone with the symptoms listed to immediately contact his/her health care provider.

The recalled Shredded Romaine Lettuce has a “best if used by” date of May 12 or earlier. The Freshway Foods press release advises restaurants, distributors, and retailers to throw out or refrain from using Shredded Romaine Lettuce from Freshway Foods with these “use by” dates. Additionally, Freshway Foods is advising consumers not to eat “grab and go” salads sold at in-store salad bars and delis at Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Markets, and Marsh stores. Shredded romaine lettuce from Freshway Foods with “use by” dates after May 12 are not involved and romaine lettuce and other types of lettuce and leafy greens from other producers are not affected by this recall.

The evidence includes preliminary results of product traceback investigations that indicate that the Shredded Romaine Lettuce consumed by ill persons in three states originated from one processing facility, preliminary results of a case-control study in one state found a statistically significant association between E. coli O145 infection and ingestion of lettuce from the same processing facility, and recovery of E. coli O145 from an unopened package of Shredded Romaine Lettuce from the same processing facility that was obtained from a food service entity was associated with the outbreak.

The CDC explained that E. coli O145, the bacteria responsible for this outbreak are referred to as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC. STECs have been linked to the potentially deadly HUS and are grouped by serotypes such as O157 or O145.

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