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FDA News Release

For Immediate Release: May 10, 2010
Media Inquiries: Michael Herndon 301-796-4673, Michael.Herndon@fda.hhs.gov 
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

Minor edits were made to this document on May 11, 2010 to provide additional clarification

Federal and State Officials Confirm Link Between Bagged Romaine Lettuce and E. coli O145 Illness Outbreak

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its state health partners have confirmed that the strain of E. coli O145 detected by the New York State Public Health Laboratory, Wadsworth Center, in Albany, in an unopened bag of shredded romaine lettuce distributed by Freshway Foods, matches the outbreak strain of E. coli O145.

This finding comes as federal and state public health officials continue to investigate the foodborne illness outbreak linked to certain romaine lettuce products sold to wholesalers and food service outlets.

To date, there have been 19 confirmed and additional unconfirmed cases of E. coli O145 infections in Michigan, Ohio, and New York. These illnesses include 12 individuals who have been hospitalized, and three with a potentially life threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS is a serious condition in which the body’s blood-clotting mechanisms are altered, causing blocked circulation or bleeding in the brain or kidneys.

Last week, Freshway Foods of Sidney, Ohio, voluntarily recalled certain romaine lettuce products because of the possible connection to the E.coli O145 foodborne illness outbreak. The recalled shredded romaine lettuce had “best if used by” dates of May 12 or earlier.

Federal and state investigators are attempting to determine the point in the supply chain where the contamination occurred. Investigations are in progress at the Freshway Foods processing facility and at a farm in Yuma, Arizona which grew the romaine lettuce supplied to Freshway Foods during the time period of interest.

Andrew Smith, Co., a Salinas, California-based grower-shipper who distributed the lettuce from the farm in Yuma, has contacted its customers to recall any lettuce originating from the farm. Vaughan Foods of Moore, Oklahoma, a supplier of processed and packaged lettuce for restaurants and other foodservice facilities, received romaine lettuce grown on the Yuma farm from Andrew Smith, Co. and is recalling romaine lettuce with “use-by” dates of May 9 and May 10. The recalled romaine lettuce distributed by Vaughan Foods was not available for purchase at retail by consumers. To date, no known illnesses have been associated with the romaine lettuce distributed by Vaughan Foods. According to records from Andrew Smith Co., no other consignees had romaine from this farm still in commerce. Lettuce harvested from other geographic areas does not appear to be associated with this outbreak.

Symptoms of infection with harmful E. coli may range from none to mild diarrhea to severe complications. The acute symptoms include severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which may be bloody. Patients may progress to serious complications, such as kidney damage. The FDA and CDC encourage anyone who has experienced the symptoms following ingestion of romaine lettuce products described here to contact his or her health care provider immediately.

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