Romaine lettuce from the Arizona growing region has been infecting people across the United States with E. Coli since April 18, 2018.
E. Coli is a type of bacteria normally found in the intestines that typically spreads from contaminated fecal bacteria or water and undercooked beef. Certain types of E. Coli like O157:H7, a harsh bacteria that produces toxins that destroys the lining of blood vessels, can cause painful abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.
The outbreak has caused a total of 98 cases across 22 states, and some people have developed a severe kidney complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pennsylvania is home to 18 reported infections, which is more than any other state. The other states where illnesses have been reported are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Yuma, Arizona is where most lettuce is grown throughout the winter season. The CDC tracked the contaminated lettuce to Harrison Farms.
Freshman Kevin Timberman says, “Now that I know where it came from, I kind of feel bad for Harrison Farms because they are going to get blamed for the whole thing.”
According to one CDC analysis, leafy vegetables have been responsible for 22 percent of food-borne illnesses. CDC officials say they expect the number of cases to grow in the coming weeks.
The CDC says, “The restaurants reported were using bagged, chopped lettuce to make salads.”
The romaine lettuce from Harrison Farms was harvested from March 5 through March 15 and is past its 21-day shelf date. Investigators have not determined yet whether the contamination occurred during the growing, harvesting, packaging or distribution stage.
In recent years, there have been more harmful outbreaks. In 2016, 96 people were affected by E. Coli in the state of Illinois. In 2006, 238 illnesses and five deaths across 26 states were reported due to spinach.
Freshman Malia Izzo says, “I’ve been avoiding lettuce ever since I heard about the E. Coli outbreak and how severe it was. I think everyone should avoid lettuce until we know it’s safe to eat it again.”
Children younger than five, older adults and people with weak immune systems are more susceptible to kidney failure according to The Food and Drug Administration.
Sara Fleury, a spokeswoman for Arizona Leafy Greens, says, “Unfortunately, Harrison Farms is taking the brunt of this and it seems that the FDA was under pressure to name someone, even though they’re not even definitively saying the product was tainted when it left their farm.”
Since it takes two to three weeks for an illness to reach the agency’s attention, illnesses that occurred after April 7 may still be unreported.
Lettuce grown from California’s Central Valley or Selina’s Valley is now being used in restaurants and sold to customers across the nation until the Arizona growing region is safe again.
How do you feel now that there is an unexpected E. Coli outbreak in our state? Do you believe it is something to be deeply concerned about?