People should avoid eating romaine lettuce because of a multistate E. coli outbreak linked to the leafy vegetable, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
No deaths have been reported so far, but at least 53 people have been infected across 16 states, according to the CDC. Thirty-one of those have been hospitalized; five people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
Friday’s announcement was prompted by an investigation at a correctional facility in Nome, Alaska, where eight inmates fell ill. All of the inmates who got sick had eaten romaine grown in the Yuma, Arizona, region.
The CDC has not issued a recall on romaine, but it is warning consumers not to eat any lettuce if there’s any possibility it was grown near Yuma. The agency advised people to throw away store-bought romaine, “even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.”
“Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, throw out any romaine lettuce if you’re uncertain about where it was grown,” the CDC said. “This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.”
People infected with E. coli typically start feeling ill three to four days after ingesting contaminated food. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps, loose stool and vomiting. You should see a doctor if you have diarrhea that lasts more than three days, or is accompanied by fever, blood in the stool, or vomiting so persistent you can’t keep down liquids, the CDC recommends.
Most people recover within five to seven days, but the infection can be life-threatening.