DeCA pulls all romaine lettuce due to E. coli contamination
The Defense Commissary Agency has pulled all fresh romaine lettuce and romaine lettuce products off shelves in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration guidance, as of Nov. 20.
According to the CDC and FDA there is a new outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infections. Thirty-two infections have been reported in 11 states: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.
“Customers in Japan and Europe may still see romaine products on their commissary shelves,” said Army Col. Alisa Wilma, DeCA’s director of health and safety. “Those stores locally source their romaine products, and as of right now, the outbreak seems to be confined to the U.S. and Canada”
The CDC and FDA are advising all consumers to not eat any romaine lettuce and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any until more is known about the outbreak.
Infection with E. coli can result in dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps two to eight days (three to four days, on average) after exposure to the organism. While most people recover within a week, some can develop Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a serious disease that affects the kidneys and blood clotting system.
So far, no deaths have been reported in conjunction with this outbreak. Commissary customers should return their romaine lettuce purchases for refund.
The CDC has recommended the following steps for customers:
- Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.
- This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
- If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.
- Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
- Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing romaine.
If you suspect you have been affected by E. coli, the CDC recommends you take the following steps:
Take action if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection.
- Talk to your healthcare provider.
- Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.
- Report your illness to the health department.
- Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.
Follow these general ways to prevent E. coli infection:
- Wash your hands. Wash hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, before and after preparing or eating food and after contact with animals.
- Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.
- Cook meats thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Cook steaks and roasts to a temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and let rest for three minutes after you remove the meat from the grill or stove. Cook ground beef and pork to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.
- Don’t cross-contaminate food preparation areas. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils after they touch raw meat.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before eating, unless the package says the contents have been washed.
- Avoid raw milk, other unpasteurized dairy products and unpasteurized juices.
The FDA has said they are working to trace back romaine lettuce that ill people ate in the current outbreak. At this time, no common grower, supplier, distributor or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified.