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E. Coli Lettuce Outbreak Hits Another State

May 13, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

The E. coli O145 outbreak linked to shredded romaine lettuce has spread to Tennessee. In all, 23 people in four states have become ill so far, and another 7 cases are suspected, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

In addition to one confirmed case in Tennessee, E. coli O145 has been reported in Ohio (8 confirmed and 1 probable), New York (4 confirmed and 3 probable) and Michigan (10 confirmed and 3 probable). All of those sickened became ill before late April.

Twelve people have been hospitalized, three with a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic-uremic syndrome, or HUS. No deaths have been reported.

E. coli O145 is a rare strain of the disease that is difficult to diagnose. Because it is more difficult to identify, the disease often goes unreported. Symptoms 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.

Anyone who has experienced such symptoms following ingestion of romaine lettuce products should contact their health care provider immediately.

Last week, Freshway Foods voluntarily recalled certain romaine lettuce products because of the possible connection to the E. coli O145 outbreak. On Monday, Vaughn Foods of Moore, Oklahoma also issued a recall of shredded romaine lettuce supplied by California-based Andrew Smith Co.

Andrew Smith Co. would not say if they supplied romaine lettuce to Freshway Foods. However, it did supply the product to a Massachusetts distributer. The company did not identify that distributor because the lettuce is already past its expiration date.

Most of the lettuce involved in these recalls was sold to food service establishments. The recall does not affect bagged lettuce in the grocery store.

The Food & Drug Administration is investigating a Yuma, Arizona farm where the romaine lettuce was harvested and is attempting to determine the point in the supply chain where the contamination occurred. The agency declined to identify the farm.

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