Health

Don't eat romaine lettuce! There's an E. coli outbreak

Heads of romaine lettuce fill a produce case at the Fruit Barn produce store in San Francisco.
Heads of romaine lettuce fill a produce case at the Fruit Barn produce store in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded its warning to consumers Friday to stay away from all types of romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Ariz., region because of an E. coli outbreak that has infected at least 61 people in 16 states.

The agency had previously instructed people not to eat chopped and bagged romaine lettuce from the area. But the new warning includes whole heads of romaine in addition to all of the packaged products.

Farmer Tobias Haack drives a tractor over 100,00 heads of romaine, iceberg and ten other types of lettuce in order to mulch them back into the ground at one of his fields on June 4, 2011 near Hamburg, Germany.
Farmer Tobias Haack drives a tractor over 100,00 heads of romaine, iceberg and ten other types of lettuce in order to mulch them back into the ground at one of his fields on June 4, 2011 near Hamburg, Germany.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Although the warning is limited to greens grown in the Southwest corner of Arizona, officials note product labels often do not identify growing regions, and whole heads of lettuce offer little to no information about the vegetable's origin. Their advice: "Throw out any romaine lettuce if you're uncertain about where it was grown. ... even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick."

A newly reported outbreak of E. coli OH157:H7 in the Anvil Mountain Correctional Center in Nome, Alaska, prompted the CDC to broaden its recommendations to consumers. Eight inmates in the prison were infected after eating whole romaine lettuce contaminated by the bacteria, according to information from the CDC and Alaska's Department of Health and Social Services.

Alaskan authorities said none of the eight patients identified in the prison outbreak have been hospitalized and none have died. No additional cases have been identified in the state outside of the Anvil Mountain Correctional Center.

A Caesar salad at chef Michael Lomonaco's The Name Game class at The 8th Annual New York Culinary Experience Presented on April 16, 2016.
A Caesar salad at chef Michael Lomonaco's The Name Game class at The 8th Annual New York Culinary Experience Presented on April 16, 2016.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for the New York Cu

E.coli are bacteria that normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals. While most strains are harmless, the one found in recent patients — 0157:H7 — is a specific strain that can cause serious illness. Symptoms may be mild to severe, including diarrhea which may be bloody.

A report issued Wednesday by the CDC said 31 people have been hospitalized since consumers started reporting they were sick on March 13. Five people have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. No deaths have been reported.

The CDC has been unable to identify a specific grower, supplier, distributor or brand responsible for the contaminated lettuce.

Agricultural workers cultivate romaine lettuce on a farm on October 8, 2013 in Holtville, California.
Agricultural workers cultivate romaine lettuce on a farm on October 8, 2013 in Holtville, California.
John Moore/Getty Images
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