The end of the lettuce-growing season in Salinas, CA has brought about the end of a months-long E. coli outbreak linked to romaine from that area, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency has also lifted the public health alert about Salinas-grown romaine lettuce.
The romaine E. coli outbreak, which began in September 2019, spread to 27 states sickening 167 people before the CDC declared its end on January 15, 2020. Eighty-five people were hospitalized, 15 of them developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a form of kidney failure associated with E. coli infections. Genetic tests show that that the same strain of E. coli was responsible for two other outbreaks -one in 2018 that sickened 62 people and one in 2017 that sickened 25. When each of those outbreaks ended, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued statements that it had been unable to identify a common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce that could explain all of the illnesses. And that’s basically the same thing that happened this time around.
In its report on the outbreak, the FDA stated that its investigators combed through hundreds of supply chain records and was able to narrow the origin of the romaine in question to 10 fields in the lower Salinas Valley. Tests on samples from those farms were negative for the outbreak strain except for one taken from a “run-off point in a buffer zone between a field where [the romaine] was harvested and where cattle are known to occasionally graze.”
Although tests on samples from the farms were a dead end, the outbreak strain of E. coli was found in actual products. One company issued a recall. A cluster of illnesses in Maryland was linked to Ready Pac Bistro Bowl Caesar Chicken Salads sold at Sam’s Club stores. And Missa Bay, the maker of those salads, issued a recall after state health officials found the outbreak strain in an unopened package at a patient’s home,
Weeks later, Wisconsin health officials found the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 in an unopened bag of Fresh Express brand Leafy Green Romaine collected from a patient’s home. Fresh Express did not issue a recall.
The 167 people sickened in this outbreak range in age from less than 1 year to 89 years old. The number of cases reported from each state is as follows: Arizona (4), California (8), Colorado (6), Delaware (1), Florida (4), Iowa (1), Idaho (4), Illinois (15), Maryland (5), Michigan (2), Minnesota (7), Montana (1), North Carolina (3), Nebraska (2), New Jersey (9), New Mexico (2), New York (3), Ohio (12), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (21), South Carolina (1), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (1), Texas (6), Virginia (6), Washington (6), and Wisconsin (35).
Pritzker Hageman E. coli lawyers have represented clients in every major E. coli outbreak in the last 20 years. Our clients from this outbreak include a teenager who developed HUS. If you would like to request a free consultation with our experienced E. coli Team, please call us at 1-888-377-8900, text us at 612-261-0856 or, fill out the form below.