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FDA Searches for E.Coli Outbreak’s Source

CALIFORNIA — The FDA and other federal, state and local agencies are on the hunt for the source of the tainted Romaine lettuce that led to a multistate E.coli outbreak.

An update from the agency posted Thursday said investigators traced the source of the tainted lettuce through the supply chain to the Central Coast growing regions of California. Investigators are currently focusing on Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura counties. Other counties may be added or removed from that list as the investigation goes on.

The FDA says the traceback comes from four restaurants in three different states. So far they’ve implicated 10 different distributors, 12 different growers and 11 different farms as potential sources, which means they are not yet able to pinpoint a single source.They are collecting lettuce, soil and water samples for testing from farms and lettuce cooling facilities, but they say no E.coli has been found in any of the lettuce or soil samples.

Some 52 cases have been reported of E. coli from Romaine lettuce in 15 states. Nineteen of the subjects have been hospitalized, including two people who developed a type of kidney failure because of the E.coli. No one has died yet.

The CDC says testing from those patients shows they were infected with E.coli bacteria that had the same DNA fingerprint as a strain taken from people sickened in a 2017 update that impacted leafy greens in the United States and Romaine in Canada.

What is E.coli?

E.coli is a type of bacteria that normally lives in the intestines of people and animals. While most strains are harmless, some can make people sick. People who get sick from E.coli bacteria usually get it from contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or people. 

Symptoms of an E.coli infection, according to the CDC:

  • Take 2-8 days before showing up
  • Include stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
  • Some people may have a low-grade fever
  • Most get better within 5 to 7 days
  • Some may contract Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a life-threatening condition that can lead to kidney failure

The FDA says consumers should continue to make sure they know where the Romaine lettuce they buy comes from. New batches of lettuce must be labeled with a harvest location and harvest date. Avoid anything from the Central Coast region of California, and if the lettuce has nothing that tells you where it’s from, don’t eat it.

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