CDC Warns Against Eating Romaine Lettuce, Citing E. Coli Outbreak

November 20, 2018 Updated: November 20, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning about eating romaine lettuce because of a new E. coli outbreak, saying any romaine lettuce is suspect.

“Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick,” the CDC wrote in a notice on its website on Nov. 20.

Some 32 people are sick, including 13 who have been hospitalized, as a result of the outbreak in 11 states, the agency said, adding that no deaths have been reported.

“This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad,” the CDC noted. “If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.”

Retailers and restaurants have been urged not to sell any romaine until more is known.

Illnesses have been reported in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin, the CDC said.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said 18 people were sick with the same strain of E. coli in Quebec and Ontario.

“It’s still early in this investigation and work remains to pinpoint the source of contamination that contributed to this outbreak,” Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on Nov. 20.

He said there isn’t enough information yet to trace the outbreak back to specific suppliers, hence the encompassing warning and no recall.

“The quick and aggressive steps we’re taking today are aimed at making sure we get ahead of this emerging outbreak, to reduce risk to consumers, and to help people protect themselves and their families,” Gottlieb added.

The investigation into the outbreak is ongoing, the CDC said, adding that as more information becomes available, it will be provided to the public.

DNA tests show the strain in the current outbreak is linked to “the E. coli strain isolated from ill people in a 2017 outbreak linked to leafy greens in the United States and to romaine lettuce in Canada,” the CDC said.

“FDA and states are working to trace back romaine lettuce that ill people ate in the current outbreak. At this time, no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified. CDC is advising that consumers not eat any romaine lettuce, and restaurants and retailers not sell any, until we learn more about this outbreak and the source of the contaminated lettuce,” the agency warned.

Symptoms of E. coli include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting; some people might have a fever.

“Most people get better within five to seven days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening,” the CDC says on its website.

“Most people with an [E. coli] infection start feeling sick three to four days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria. However, illnesses can start anywhere from a day to 10 days after exposure. Contact your healthcare provider if you have diarrhea that lasts for more than three days or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine,” the agency advises.