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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its state health partners have confirmed that the strain of E. coli O145 detected by the New York State Public Health Laboratory, Wadsworth Center, in Albany, in an unopened bag of shredded romaine lettuce distributed by Freshway Foods, matches the outbreak strain of E. coli O145.
This finding comes as federal and state public health officials continue to investigate the foodborne illness outbreak linked to certain romaine lettuce products sold to wholesalers and food service outlets.
To date, there have been 19 confirmed and additional unconfirmed cases of E. coli O145 infections in Michigan, Ohio, and New York. These illnesses include 12 individuals who have been hospitalized, and three with a potentially life threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS is a serious condition in which the body’s blood-clotting mechanisms are altered, causing blocked circulation or bleeding in the brain or kidneys.
Last week, Freshway Foods of Sidney, Ohio, voluntarily recalled certain romaine lettuce products because of the possible connection to the E.coli O145 foodborne illness outbreak. The recalled shredded romaine lettuce had “best if used by” dates of May 12 or earlier.
Federal and state investigators are attempting to determine the point in the supply chain where the contamination occurred and are investigating a farm in the Yuma, Ariz. area from which the romaine lettuce was harvested. Lettuce harvested from other geographic areas does not appear to be associated with this outbreak.
Vaughan Foods of Moore, Okla., a supplier of processed and packaged lettuce for use at the foodservice level, received romaine lettuce harvested from the same farm in Yuma, Arizona; the company is recalling romaine lettuce with “useby” dates of May 9 and May 10. The recalled romaine lettuce distributed by Vaughan Foods was sold to restaurants and food service facilities and were not available for purchase at retail by consumers.
Symptoms of infection with harmful E. coli may range from none to mild diarrhea to severe complications. The acute symptoms include severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which may be bloody. Patients may progress to serious complications, such as kidney damage. The FDA and CDC encourage anyone who has experienced the symptoms following ingestion of romaine lettuce products described here to contact his or her health care provider immediately.