The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has shared an important update about the ongoing E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce.
The health agency warns that it’s not safe to eat romaine lettuce from California’s Central Coast. Meanwhile, the FDA says lettuce from other regions is safe to eat.
Already, more than 40 people in 12 states have fallen sick from E. coli connected to the lettuce, along with 22 others in Canada. So far, at least 16 of those cases were serious enough to require hospitalization.
Outbreak Alert: Don’t eat romaine lettuce from the Coastal Central growing regions of northern and central California. If you can’t confirm where it was grown, don’t eat it. https://t.co/NrFOIxG8hx pic.twitter.com/vErydFImny— CDC (@CDCgov) November 27, 2018
E. coli is a bacteria often found in contaminated food and water, which can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and dehydration.
Symptoms are generally mild and don’t require treatment, but E. coli can cause intestinal infections linked to more serious complications, including life-threatening kidney damage. At least two people have developed kidney failure related to the current outbreak.
The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are still investigating the tainted lettuce to learn where it was harvested. So far, the agencies say they can’t name a specific source of the outbreak.
Their new guidelines are a change from last week’s warning to stop eating romaine lettuce entirely, as many stores took the produce off their shelves.
But the agencies still warn shoppers not to take chances during the outbreak. "If you do not know where your romaine lettuce is from, do not eat it," the CDC said in a statement.
#OUTBREAK UPDATE – Preliminary traceback info indicates E. Coli illnesses are likely linked to #romaine lettuce grown in California this fall. Total illnesses – 43, hospitalizations – 16, deaths – 0 in 12 states. For up-to-date, detailed info >> https://t.co/vyKkwprO0D pic.twitter.com/bM9Q80SH0y— FDA FOOD (@FDAfood) November 27, 2018
Still, the FDA’s commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, says the infected lettuce is probably gone from store shelves after the "clean break" from romaine last week.
Authorities say the outbreak is connected to cases of E. coli-tainted lettuce from a year ago, but not to a E. coli-tainted lettuce outbreak from this spring, which killed five people and has since been blamed on contaminated irrigation water in Arizona.
New labeling rules will clearly mark where lettuce was shipped from, to help prevent and quickly deal with future outbreaks.