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FDA Fast Facts: FDA, CDC and partners continue to investigate E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce

For Immediate Release: May 7, 2018
Media Inquiries: Peter Cassell, 240-402-6537, peter.cassell@fda.hhs.gov
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with state and local partners, are continuing to investigate the multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 linked to romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region. We are working to identify multiple distribution channels to explain the entirety of the nationwide outbreak and are tracing back from multiple clusters of ill people located in diverse geographic areas to the most likely, individual sources in the Yuma region.

"Once public health officials linked multiple illnesses nationwide to romaine lettuce sourced from the Yuma growing region, federal officials immediately put out a public warning so consumers had actionable information to prevent them from getting sick and to encourage those who may be affected to seek the advice of their healthcare professional," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. "Our thoughts are with the family of the person who passed away, and I’m committed to providing consumers with more information to protect themselves and their families. Right now, we haven’t identified a common supplier, farm, or distributor to effectuate a recall. We know that the outbreak originated with romaine lettuce sourced from the Yuma region and are using public alerts to share as much information as we can with consumers. Our investigation is continuing and we’ll provide regular updates as more information becomes available. Since romaine lettuce is no longer being produced and distributed from the Yuma growing region, the potential for additional exposure to contaminated product is diminished. But due to the 21-day shelf life, we can’t be certain that all of the product from this region is out of the supply chain."

The following is an update on the outbreak investigation.

SnapshotsBy the Numbers (as of 5/4)
Outbreak Investigation Summary
  • The FDA identified Harrison Farms as the source of the whole-head romaine lettuce connected to cases in Alaska.
  • The remainder of cases in this outbreak are not linked to Harrison Farms.
  • The harvest season in the Yuma growing region is over and romaine lettuce is no longer being produced there now. 
  • The FDA is investigating other fields as potential sources in this outbreak and has personnel on the ground in the region.
  • To date, the FDA has no evidence that romaine lettuce grown elsewhere is involved in this outbreak.
  • The current outbreak is not related to a recent multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to leafy greens.
Advice for Consumers
  • The FDA continues to recommend not consuming romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region.
  • Consumers should ask retailers where their romaine lettuce was sourced from and not eat or buy any romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region.
  • If you cannot confirm the source of the romaine lettuce, do not buy it or eat it.
  • Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators should not sell or serve any romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region.
  • People who think they might have symptoms of an E. coli infection should consult their health care professional.
  • People with questions about food safety can call the FDA at 1-888-SAFEFOOD or consult the FDA’s website.
Outbreak Investigation
  • The CDC reports that 121 people in 25 states have become ill.
  • People reported becoming ill in the time period between March 13, 2018 to April 21, 2018.
  • 52 people were hospitalized, including 14 people who developed kidney failure.
  • One death was reported from California.
  • The cases are spread across 25 states: Alaska (8); Arizona (8); California (24); Colorado (2); Connecticut (2); Georgia (4); Idaho (11); Illinois (1); Kentucky (1); Louisiana (1); Massachusetts (2); Michigan (4); Mississippi (1); Missouri (1); Montana (8); New Jersey (7); New York (2); Ohio (3); Pennsylvania (20); South Dakota (1); Tennessee (1); Utah (1); Virginia (1); Washington (6); and Wisconsin (1).
  • Ill people range in age from 1 to 88 years, with a median age of 29.
  • Sixty-three percent of ill people are female.
  • One farm was identified as the supplier of whole-head romaine lettuce that sickened people in Alaska.
  • The FDA is investigating two dozen other farms in Arizona and multiple distribution chains.
  • No romaine lettuce is being introduced into commerce from the Yuma growing region, reducing the potential risk for exposure to contaminated product.
  • Romaine lettuce has an approximate 21-day shelf life from harvest.

 The FDA is continuing to investigate this outbreak and will share more information as it becomes available. For more information on this investigation:

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The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines, and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.