Coli outbreak since 2006 widens

Fourteen more people fell ill from an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, USA health officials said on Friday, bringing the number of people affected to 98 across 22 US states. Those affected are 65% female and range in age between 1 and 88 years old.

The firm likewise cautioned dining establishments not to serve romaine lettuce to consumers. This is not a time to be tailoring the message to risk groups. "Illnesses that occurred in the last two to three weeks might not yet be reported because of the time between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported to CDC", the agency said.

An additional 31 people have now fallen ill from eating lettuce traced to Yuma, Arizona, bringing the total to 84. Ten have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious and potentially life-threatening type of kidney failure that can develop as a complication with this type of infection.

And while the tainted romaine lettuce is thought to have originated from the Yuma 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 agency said in its warning.

"E. coli and things like that are normally caused by fault production and not having clean facilities for washing your produce", said Jeb Bush, Forsyth Farmer's Market.

"When I was farming, I was the one that would harvest the lettuce myself", Bush said.

Currently, there is no link between this strain and the one in Canada from December 2017, which sickened at least 17 people, officials said.

The most recent data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows all romaine lettuce from the Yuma region should not be eaten.

It has been linked to romaine lettuce and has hospitalized 98 people in 22 states.

Pappaioanou, an affiliate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the university, said the country's food system relies on the Arizona area, which is near the Colorado River and USA border, for most of its lettuce during winter months.

The type of bacteria linked to the outbreak is known as E. coli O157:H7, and it generally causes vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and cramps about three to four days after eating the lettuce.

Disclosure: Wise works for the CDC, Harris works for the FDA.

"We haven't been able to guarantee that there's no product coming out of Yuma at this point", added Stic Harris of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during a briefing for reporters.

"If its coming from a processor, which is bagged lettuce, it becomes much more hard to trace that because often times several farms will sell to the plants", said Eric Derstine, horticulture extension agent for Pitt County. That includes whole heads, hearts, chopped romaine, salads and salad mixes containing romaine.

This is the largest outbreak of its kind since a deadly E. coli outbreak in 2006 that was linked to spinach.

  • Aubrey Nash