CDC: Romaine lettuce finally in the clear

CDC: Romaine lettuce finally in the clear

Twenty-three additional cases of E. coli illness in a multistate outbreak tied to romaine lettuce were reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday. It is unlikely that any romaine lettuce from the Yuma area still is available in people's homes, stores or restaurants due to its 21-day shelf life. The current outbreak has been traced to the Yuma, Arizona, growing region, the source of virtually all lettuce sold in this country during the winter months.

Iowa, Nebraska and OR are the latest states to report illnesses linked to the outbreak, joining 29 states that previously reported cases. But the last shipment of romaine from Yuma left on April 16 and the growing season there is over. "The most recent illnesses reported to CDC started when romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region was likely still available in stores, restaurants, and in peoples' homes".

"The ongoing traceback investigation indicates that the illnesses associated with this outbreak can not be explained by a single grower, harvester, processor, or distributor", the FDA said Wednesday.

Health officials say there is a lag time of two to three weeks between when someone falls ill and when it's reported to the CDC.

The outbreak, which began in March, has sickened 172 people in 32 states.

That means that the agency is no longer advising consumers to avoid buying romaine lettuce in connection with the outbreak. This goes even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. The strain of E. coli, known as O157:H7, produces a Shiga toxin that can affect people seriously, causing diarrhea and vomiting and in severe cases kidney failure. Last week, the outbreak was reported in just 29 states.

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