It's OK to eat romaine lettuce again as officials declare E. coli outbreak over

Caesar salad lovers rejoice -- your crispy romaine lettuce leaves are OK to eat now.The nationwide, monthslong...

Posted: Jan 15, 2020 3:30 PM
Updated: Jan 15, 2020 5:00 PM

Caesar salad lovers rejoice -- your crispy romaine lettuce leaves are OK to eat now.

The nationwide, monthslong E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce ended Wednesday, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration.

The romaine, which came from Salinas, California, infected a total of 167 people in 27 states.

This included 85 hospitalizations, including 15 patients who developed a type of kidney failure -- hemolytic uremic syndrome -- known to be associated with this particular type of bacteria, E. coli O157:H7. The toxin produced by the bacteria typically causes symptoms such as vomiting, stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea.

No deaths have been linked to the outbreak.

The onset of illnesses were reported between September 20 and December 21, 2019, and the outbreak affected people ranging in age from younger than 1 to 89.

Nearly two-thirds of those impacted were female.

The CDC no longer advises people to avoid lettuce from the Salinas Valley. The contaminated lettuce that sickened people during the outbreak is no longer being sold, the agency said.

The FDA said its investigation into the source of the outbreak is continuing, and it plans to conduct another 'in-depth, root-cause investigation' to explain how contamination occurred.

Why E. coli loves leafy greens

'Leafy greens, such as lettuce, can become contaminated in the field by soil, contaminated water, animals or improperly composted manure,' Jeff Farber, director of the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety and a professor at University of Guelph in Ontario, told CNN after a 2018 outbreak. 'Lettuce can also be contaminated by bacteria during and after harvest from handling, storing and transporting the produce.'

People usually consume romaine lettuce without cooking it, which could kill the germs.

'Other raw fruits and vegetables that have come into contact with feces from infected animals are another common source of infection,' Farber said.

Popularity also plays a role in why lettuce is a frequent bad actor: 'Lettuce is also eaten the most out of all the produce items,' he said.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3147735

Reported Deaths: 36846
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles106550515184
San Bernardino2628581594
Riverside2585322777
San Diego2255582344
Orange2214932625
Santa Clara964351181
Kern89095590
Fresno847441043
Sacramento828611157
Alameda69693886
Ventura64404507
San Joaquin59395808
Contra Costa54416487
Stanislaus43938788
Tulare42759531
Monterey37285259
San Mateo33731340
San Francisco30027278
Santa Barbara26514264
Solano26494111
Imperial25562493
Merced25048324
Sonoma24761247
Kings19760160
Placer17675188
San Luis Obispo16437151
Madera13781151
Santa Cruz12687130
Marin11930163
Yolo11014138
Shasta9920129
Butte9711134
El Dorado800259
Sutter792783
Napa782847
Lassen526916
San Benito514348
Yuba504929
Tehama446846
Tuolumne344340
Nevada329674
Mendocino325635
Amador304232
Lake268132
Humboldt249425
Glenn198522
Colusa18549
Calaveras167223
Siskiyou148413
Mono11354
Inyo100729
Del Norte8732
Plumas6055
Modoc3873
Mariposa3464
Trinity3054
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