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What to know during a romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak

SEATTLE, Nov. 23, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- "When in doubt, throw it out," says William (Bill) Marler , managing partner at the Food Safety Law Firm, Marler Clark.

(PRNewsfoto/Marler Clark)

"It is past time for the leafy green industry to take the safety of greens, especially romaine lettuce, seriously. The FDA must require, and the industry must implement, better environmental controls and more rigorous testing of products. There have been too many outbreaks leaving hundreds of consumers with life-long complications," said Bill Marler

"Over the last decades, and recently, I have represented the families of people who have died as a result of consuming a product deemed 'healthy.' I have also represented dozens of children who face a lifetime of complications – including kidney failure – due to eating leafy greens. This has to stop," added Marler.

What to know about the E. coli outbreak:

The FDA, CDC, state and Canadian health authorities are presently investigating an outbreak of illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 tainted romaine lettuce in the United States and Canada. Thus far at least 41 people have been sickened in the United States and Canada.  This is in addition to 23 people sickened by E. coli O157:H7 tainted romaine lettuce in September.  Both outbreaks involve romaine lettuce grown in Salinas California.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicates that romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California growing region is a likely source of this outbreak.

Consumers should not eat romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California.

Additionally, consumers should not eat products identified in the recall announced by the USDA on November 21, 2019 related to Missa Bay, LLC, products and Ready Pac Bistro Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics Caesar Salad.

Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell romaine harvested from Salinas, California.  If you do not know the source of your romaine lettuce, and if you cannot obtain that information from your supplier, you should not serve, nor sell it.

Romaine lettuce may be voluntarily labeled with a harvest region. If this voluntary label indicates that the romaine lettuce was grown in "Salinas" (whether alone or with the name of another location) do not eat it. Throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.  If romaine lettuce does not have information about harvest region or does not indicate that it has been grown indoors (i.e., hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown), throw it away or return it to the place of purchase. Consumers ordering salad containing romaine at a restaurant or at a salad bar should ask the staff whether the romaine came from Salinas.  If it did, or they do not know, do not eat it.

What to know about the E. coli:

Shiga toxin–producing E. coli (STEC) cause approximately 100,000 illnesses, 3,000 hospitalizations, and 90 deaths annually in the United States. Most reported STEC infections in the United States are caused by  E. coli O157:H7 , with an estimated 73,000 cases occurring each year.

What to know about the E. coli complications:

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, or HUS, occurs in around 10 percent of hospitalized  E. coli O157:H7 infections. HUS occurs when Shiga toxins get into the bloodstream and cause the part of the kidney that filters toxins out of the blood to break down, causing kidney injury and sometimes kidney failure. Some HUS patients also suffer damage to the pancreas and central nervous system impairment.

E. coli outbreaks associated with lettuce, specifically the "pre-washed" and "ready-to-eat" varieties, are by no means a new phenomenon. In fact, the frequency with which this country's fresh produce consuming public has been hit by outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria is astonishing. Here is just a sample of E. coli outbreaks based on information gathered by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Kansas State University, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) – NOTE:  It is very likely that there or dozens of other outbreaks that the CDC and FDA did not make public:

Date

Vehicle

Etiology

Confirmed
Cases

States/Provinces

July 1995

Lettuce (leafy green; red; romaine)

E. coli O157:H7

74

1:MT

Sept. 1995

Lettuce (romaine)

E. coli O157:H7

20

1:ID

Sept. 1995

Lettuce (iceberg)

E. coli O157:H7

30

1:ME

Oct. 1995

Lettuce (iceberg; unconfirmed)

E. coli O157:H7

11

1:OH

May-June 1996

Lettuce (mesclun; red leaf)

E. coli O157:H7

61

3:CT, IL, NY

May 1998

Salad

E. coli O157:H7

2

1:CA

Feb.-Mar. 1999

Lettuce (iceberg)

E. coli O157:H7

72

1:NE

Oct. 1999

Salad

E. coli O157:H7

92

3:OR, PA, OH

Oct. 2000

Lettuce

E. coli O157:H7

6

1:IN

Nov. 2001

Lettuce

E. coli O157:H7

20

1:TX

July-Aug. 2002

Lettuce (romaine)

E. coli O157:H7

29

2:WA, ID

Nov. 2002

Lettuce

E. coli O157:H7

13

1:Il

Dec. 2002

Lettuce

E. coli O157:H7

3

1:MN

Oct. 2003-May 2004

Lettuce (mixed salad)

E. coli O157:H7

57

1:CA

Apr. 2004

Spinach

E. coli O157:H7

16

1:CA

Nov. 2004

Lettuce

E. coli O157:H7

6

1:NJ

Sept. 2005

Lettuce (romaine)

E. coli O157:H7

32

3:MN, WI, OR

Sept. 2006

Spinach (baby)

E. coli O157:H7 and other serotypes

205

Multistate and Canada

Nov./Dec. 2006

Lettuce

E. coli O157:H7

71

4:NY, NJ, PA, DE

Nov./Dec. 2006

Lettuce

E. coli O157:H7

81

3:IA, MN, WI

July 2007

Lettuce

E. coli O157:H7

26

1:AL

May 2008

Romaine

E. coli O157:H7

9

1:WA

Oct. 2008

Lettuce

E. coli O157:H7

59

Multistate and Canada

Nov. 2008

Lettuce

E. coli O157:H7

130

Canada

Sept. 2009

Lettuce: Romaine or Iceberg

E. coli O157:H7

29

Multistate

Sept. 2009

Lettuce

E. coli O157:H7

10

Multistate

April 2010

Romaine

E. coli O145

33

5:MI, NY, OH, PA, TN

Oct. 2011

Romaine

E. coli O157:H7

60

Multistate

April 2012

Romaine

E. coli O157:H7

28

1:CA

Canada

June 2012

Romaine

E. coli O157:H7

52

Multistate

Sept. 2012

Romaine

E. coli O157:H7

9

1:PA

Oct. 2012

Spinach and Spring Mix Blend

E. coli O157:H7

33

Multistate

Apr. 2013

Leafy Greens

E. coli O157:H7

14

Multistate

Aug. 2013

Leafy Greens

E. coli O157:H7

15

1:PA

Oct. 2013

Ready-To-Eat Salads

E. coli O157:H7

33

Multistate

Apr. 2014

Romaine

E. coli O126

4

1:MN

Apr. 2015

Leafy Greens

E. coli O145

7

3:MD, SC, VA

June 2016

Mesclun Mix

E. coli O157:H7

11

3:IL, MI, WI

Nov. 2017

Leafy Greens

E. coli O157:H7

67

Multistate and Canada

Mar. 2018

Romaine

E. coli O157:H7

219

Multistate and Canada

Nov. 2018

Romaine

E. coli O157:H7

91

Multistate and Canada

Sept. 2019

Romaine

E. coli O157:H7

23

Multistate

Nov. 2018

Romaine

E. coli O157:H7

41

Multistate and Canada

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation's leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $650 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our E. coli lawyers have litigated E. coli and HUS cases stemming from outbreaks traced to ground beef, raw milk, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and other food products.  The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John's.  We have proudly represented such victims as Brianne Kiner , Stephanie Smith and Linda Rivera .

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SOURCE Marler Clark, The Nation's Food Safety Law Firm