"Consumer Reports is making this recommendation given the potentially fatal consequences of E. coli, the fact that there are still several unknowns about this outbreak, and that no type of romaine has been ruled definitively safe by government officials", said James E. Rogers, director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.
An outbreak of E. coli has prompted the CDC to recommend that consumers and retailers discard any romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona, growing region.
Symptoms of E. coli infection include diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting.
Before purchasing romaine lettuce at a grocery store or eating it at a restaurant, consumers should confirm with the store or restaurant that it is not chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.
"Individuals with this infection usually get better within about 5 to 7 days, however some illnesses can be serious or even life-threatening", Dr. Shereef Elnahal, commissioner of the state Department of Health, said in a statement. Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 22, 2018 to March 31, 2018. While the number of those ill continues to grow, no deaths have been reported as of the most recent update from the agency.
Over the weekend, stores such as Walmart, Sam's Club, and Giant Eagle issued recalls for romaine lettuce products, including those sold in the catering, restaurant, and salad bar areas. However, illnesses can start anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure.
Consumer Reports said it would be hard for buyers to tell where the romaine was grown, which is why they are saying consumers should avoid romaine altogether until the threat passes.
Most people reported eating a salad at a restaurant, and romaine lettuce was the only common ingredient identified among the salads eaten. At this time, ill people are not reporting whole heads or hearts of romaine.
State and local health department officials are investigating multiple reports of E. coli infections likely linked to chopped romaine lettuce.
CDC investigators don't believe this outbreak is connected to the one that occurred late a year ago in the United States and Canada, although it is the same potentially deadly strain, E.coli O157:H7. Thirty-five people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from 11 states.
In another development, a group of five produce grower trade groups issued a joint statement on April 14 that said its members are cooperating with government investigators and are working closely to identify the source of the outbreak tied to chopped romaine from the Yuma, Ariz., growing area, adding that almost all romaine being harvested and shipped now is from California areas not implicated in the outbreak.
This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide more information as it becomes available.