The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday warned consumers not to eat romaine lettuce grown in California’s Salinas Valley, known as “The Salad Bowl of the World,” as federal health officials are investigating an E. coli outbreak that has put 28 people in the hospital.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also said consumers should not eat romaine lettuce if the label does not specifically say where it was grown or does not indicate that it has been grown hydroponically or in a greenhouse.
“For consumers ordering salad containing romaine at a restaurant or at a salad bar should ask the staff whether the romaine came from Salinas,” the agency said. “If it did, or they do not know, do not eat it.”
Plus, the USDA also warned consumers against eating “any wraps, sandwiches, prepackaged salad, salad kits, or other product containing romaine lettuce harvested from the Salinas region.” Missa Bay LLC has recalled more than 75,000 pounds of salad products because they may be contaminated with E. coli.
So far, 40 people, including the 28 hospitalized, in 16 states have been infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7.
The FDA said it is deploying investigators to the Salinas Valley farms in question to try to determine the source and extent of the contamination. More information will be forthcoming as the investigation proceeds, the FDA said.
The states with E. coli cases include: Wisconsin (10), Ohio (5), California (4), Pennsylvania (3), Maryland (3), Arizona (2), Colorado (1), Idaho (3), New Mexico (2), Illinois (1), Michigan (1), Minnesota (1), Montana (1), New Jersey (1), Virginia (1), and Washington (1).
The Maryland Department of Health identified E. coli O157:H7 in an unopened package of Ready Pac Bistro Chicken Caesar Salad collected from an ill person’s home in Maryland. Analysis of this salad, through Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS), has linked strain E. coli O157:H7 to three Maryland cases and the multi-state outbreak.
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“Currently, the FDA does not have enough traceback information to identify the specific source of the contamination that would allow us to request a targeted recall from specific growers,” the agency said. “At this stage in the investigation, the most efficient way to ensure that contaminated romaine is off the market would be for industry to voluntarily withdraw product grown in Salinas, and to withhold distribution of Salinas romaine for the remainder of the growing season in Salinas. FDA has made this request of industry.”