Although none of the confirmed E. coli cases have yet been linked to Fresh Foods, the company is concerned that its romaine supplier may have been involved in the outbreak. There were also cases in Connecticut, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia and Washington state.
The Consumer Reports statement said its advisory is its second warning for romaine since January and that its advice goes beyond the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advice for the public to buy or order only bagged romaine lettuce that didn't originate from the Yuma growing area.
A multistate E. coli outbreak has sent at least 22 people to the hospital prompting health officials to advise consumers across the country to throw out any store-bought chopped romaine lettuce, including prepackaged salads and salad mixes.
"Individuals with this infection usually get better within about 5 to 7 days, however some illnesses can be serious or even life-threatening", Dr. Shereef Elnahal, commissioner of the state Department of Health, said in a statement.
An outbreak of E. coli has prompted the CDC to recommend that consumers and retailers discard any romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona, growing region. Some people may have a low fever, less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit. However, illnesses can start anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure. Most people with a E. coli O157 infection start feeling sick 3 to 4 days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria. Illnesses that began on or after March 27 may not have been counted yet. Most of those people ate salad at a restaurant; romaine lettuce was the common ingredient.
The symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections vary, but usually include severe and painful stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. The Produce Marketing Association, Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, United Fresh and Western Growers released a statement on the outbreak, and reassured consumers that almost all romaine lettuce now being harvested and shipped throughout the U.S.is from the California growing areas. Twenty-two hospitalizations have occurred as a result of the outbreak, though luckily no deaths have been reported.
Before purchasing romaine lettuce at a grocery store or eating it at a restaurant, consumers should confirm with the store or restaurant that it is not chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.
State and local health department officials are investigating multiple reports of E. coli infections likely linked to chopped romaine lettuce.