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E. coli outbreak: CDC approaches romaine lettuce

It is unlikely that anyone has edible romaine lettuce that is contaminated with the toxic strain of sick E. coli people across the country since March. That was Wednesday's message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and if it's not exactly a shrill signal of "all clear," it's pretty close.

Romaine lettuce has a shelf life of approximately 21 days. The current outbreak goes back to the growing region of Yuma, Arizona, the source of virtually all lettuce sold in this country during the winter months. The CDC said Wednesday that April 16 was the last day that romaine lettuce was harvested in the Yuma area. The romaine lettuce from Yuma's growing region has passed its useful life and is probably no longer sold in stores or served in restaurants, "the CDC said in a statement," In the latest official update, the CDC noted that new cases of food poisoning related to E. coli come from the period when contaminated lettuce could still be circulating or in household refrigerators.

"It takes two to three weeks for the person to get sick. E. coli and when the disease is reported to the CDC, "the agency said." The most recent diseases reported to the CDC began when the romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region was probably still available in stores, restaurants and in the homes. "

The CDC has stopped advising consumers to drink romaine lettuce if they can confirm where it is.

Until May 15, 172 people in 32 states had Sick in the outbreak, an increase of 23 people and three states since the last update a week before. A death has been reported. Of those who became ill, 75 have been hospitalized, including 20 with kidney failure.

In scale, this outbreak is close to the outbreak of E. coli in baby spinach in 2006 that made more than 200 people sick and killed five. The strain of E. coli, known as O157: H7, produces a Shiga toxin that can seriously affect people, causing diarrhea and vomiting and in severe cases kidney failure.

The Food and Drug Administration has been trying to discover exactly where and when the Romans involved in this latest outbreak were contaminated. A farm in Yuma has been identified as the source of the lettuce that sickened eight prisoners in Alaska, but FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb revealed on Wednesday night a bit of how complicated the case is.

The FDA, tweeted, "ruled out that the contamination was caused by a single farm, suggesting that it was a complex problem and will take longer to investigate"


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