King County man diagnosed with E. coli infection linked to romaine lettuce from California

The CDC and FDA is putting out a very strong warning to not eat Romaine from Salinas right now.

NEW YORK — A resident of King County has been diagnosed with an E. coli infection genetically connected to the national outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grown in Salinas California, Public Health - Seattle & King County said Friday.

The outbreak was announced Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Local health officials said a man is believed to have gotten ill from eating lettuce bought in King County but is in recovery

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Additional E. coli cases among King County residents linked to the national outbreak are being investigated, Public Health officials said. Those cases are pending.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating an E. coli outbreak that has sickened 40 people in more than a dozen states. The agency said its inquiry led investigators to farms in Salinas and that they were looking for the contamination source.

The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and if additional products are linked to illness. Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin now report illnesses.

People are being encouraged to follow the CDC's direction on romaine lettuce: “We encourage people to follow the CDC guidance and avoid buying or eating romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California growing area to protect yourself and your family,” said Dr. Meagan Kay, DVM, medical epidemiologist for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “If you have romaine lettuce at home and you don’t know where it was grown, don’t take chances. Don’t eat it and throw it away.”

U.S. officials urged people not to eat the leafy green if the label doesn't say where it was grown. They also urged supermarkets and restaurants not to serve or sell the lettuce, unless they're sure it's grown elsewhere.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating after the E. coli has sickened 40 people in more than a dozen states.

U.S. officials said the warning applies to all types of romaine from the Salinas region, including whole heads, hearts of romaine and pre-cut salad mixes that have romaine.

The CDC has issued the following advice:

  • Avoid all romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California growing region, including whole heads and hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
  • Do not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Salinas, California, growing region.
  • Product labels often do not identify growing regions, so don't eat or buy it if you don't know where it was grown. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it.
  • Restaurants and retailers should check the label on bags or boxes of romaine lettuce, or ask their suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce.

Romaine has been tied to repeated food poisoning outbreaks, including the one right before Thanksgiving last year. It's not clear exactly why romaine keeps sickening people, but food safety experts note the difficulty of eliminating risk for produce grown in open fields and eaten raw.

"It's very, very disturbing. Very frustrating all around," said Trevor Suslow of the Produce Marketing Association.

The warning comes almost exactly one year after a similar outbreak led to a blanket warning about tainted romaine.

Below are symptoms of E. coli Public Health - Seattle & King County put in its Public Health Insider:

Talk to your health care provider if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection: diarrhea that can be bloody, severe stomach cramps, and vomiting. In addition, inform your provider about any consumption of leafy greens in the 10 days before you became ill. Anyone who is ill with suspected E. coli should not work in food handling, patient care, or child care settings. Ill children with suspected E. coli should not attend day care until they have seen a health care provider and been tested for E. coli infection even if their illness is mild.

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