The recent multi-state E. coli outbreak in Ohio, Michigan, and New York is linked to last weeks' recall of Freshsafe romaine lettuce recall, said the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Tuesday in a statement.
The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have worked with state health organizations to prove a connection between Freshsafe’s romaine lettuce and cases of illness caused by E. coli.
"DNA testing to confirm the link to ill persons is pending at this time," said the CDC statement.
The New York State Public Health Laboratory analyzed lettuce pulled from Freshsafe packaged lettuce. The researchers found traces of E. coli 145 last week. It is the same strand of E. coli that caused multiple illnesses in Ohio, Michigan, and New York.
The FDA and CDC have released a public statement confirming a connection between the two occurrences and are taking further action to find the exact date of contamination. The strain came from a single processing plant, according to the CDC.
Officials have confirmed 19 E. coli infections, with 12 of them severe enough to send people to the hospital. Those who have been hospitalized have suffered from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). So far no deaths have been reported from the outbreak.
Any product containing lettuce packaged by Freshsafe with a use date of May 12 or earlier has a chance of E. coli contamination. The company stated last week that states affected could include but are not limited to 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.
FDA and the CDC are investigating a farm in Yuma, Arizona that may be the source of the contaminated lettuce. Other lettuce production sites seem to be safe.
HUS can alter the body’s natural process of forming blood clots and can result in bleeding in the brain or kidneys. Signs of E. coli infection before HUS include stomach cramps and diarrhea. Elderly and very young people are most vulnerable to the severe complication. It usually develops after the stomach symptoms improve, said the CDC.
“Grab and Go” salads from Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Market, and Marsh stores are still potentially dangerous. The FDA and CDC have advised the public to contact local health institutions at the earliest signs of infection to avoid further complications.