Crapped-In Lettuce Sickens 138; 13 Have Kidney Failure

Workers harvest romaine lettuce in a field outside of Salinas. (Monterey Herald file photo, Fair Use.)

“Shiga toxin-producing E. coli can cause serious illness in humans by producing toxins that can severely damage the lining of intestines and kidneys.” | 

Dec 24, 2019

East Bay Times, SALINAS, Ca. — Health officials on Monday continued to warn consumers away from romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley after 138 people were sickened from a bacterial infection.

More than half of those who fell ill required hospitalization and of those 13 have suffered kidney failure, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is saying. No deaths have been reported. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reporting two separate outbreaks, both of which have been linked to romaine grown in the Salinas Valley.

If consumers don’t know whether a lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, the CDC advises they throw it away.

The exact farm, field or distributor of the contaminated lettuce has not yet been determined but the CDC said it is continuing to investigate.

“For the third straight year, there is a romaine-associated E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in North America.”  – Forbes 

The contaminated lettuce has now hit 25 states and has been confirmed to be tainted with a E. coli strain called 0157:H7. E. coli strains are bacteria that normally reside in the gut of humans and animals. Most strains are harmless or cause minor illness, according to the CDC.

But the 0157:H7 strain is different. It has several names but is most often referred to as shiga toxin-producing E. coli and can cause serious illness in humans by producing toxins that can severely damage the lining of intestines and kidneys.

That, in turn, can lead to serious complications like hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure that can be fatal.

Romaine lettuce harvested outside of the Salinas region is not implicated in the outbreak, the FDA said. Farmers, shippers and processors of romaine are working with retailers and food-service distributors to remove all romaine grown in the Salinas region quickly and effectively from market channels, the Salinas-based Grower-Shipper Association said.

All types of romaine lettuce grown in Salinas should be avoided, such as whole heads of romaine, organic romaine, hearts of romaine, romaine in salad wraps, and packages of pre-cut lettuce and salad mixes … Read more.