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The CDC Warns That Romaine Lettuce Infected With Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli Can Be Fatal

By Lindsay Proskey

Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) warned that 149 individuals across 29 states have been infected with E. coli after consuming contaminated romaine lettuce. Of those infected, 64 people were hospitalized including 17 individuals who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially life-threatening kidney failure caused by the abnormal destruction of red blood cells. Tragically, one death has been reported.

What You Need to Know About Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli

E. coli are bacteria commonly found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. Although mostly harmless, E. coli can cause illness or death once escaped outside the intestinal tract. Symptoms such as abdominal cramping, bloody diarrhea, fever, or vomiting appear approximately two to eight days after consuming the bacteria. The most common mode of transmission to individuals is through consumption of contaminated foods, such as undercooked meat or through cross-contamination during food preparation. However, unhygienic person-to-person contact can also transmit the bacteria through the oral-fecal route.

Restaurants and Retailers Will Be Liable to Customers

The CDC urges consumers to avoid and immediately dispose of all romaine lettuce, including partially consumed lettuce since E. coli can survive on the lettuce after rinsing. The bacteria not only “have the ability to adhere to the surface of the leaves and get stuck in microscopic crevices,” but can permeate the entire leaf and are thus left undisturbed by water. Customers should heed caution when purchasing packaged lettuce, as health officials have failed to identify a contaminant-specific grower, supplier, distributor or brand. Retailers and restaurants should take extra precaution and identify the romaine’s growing source before serving or selling the lettuce to the public. Consumers should also avoid salads and entrees that include romaine garnishes until further notice by the CDC.

Tim Tomasik of Tomasik Kotin Kasserman represents loved ones and children that are poisoned as the result of the negligent sale and preparation of food products to the public, and he has successfully prosecuted food poisoning cases on behalf of victims. For more information about our work in this area, please call the law offices of TKK at 312-605-8800 or contact us online.

Sources:

Jesse Hirsch, Washing Your Greens Won’t Protect Against E. coli, April 16, 2018 https://www.consumerreports.org/e-coli/washing-greens-protect-e-coli/

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