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Selects brands of Romaine lettuce could contain E. coli

As part of an ongoing investigation into the multi-state outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157) infections, Wisconsin health and food safety officials have found E. coli O157:H7 bacteria, in an unopened bag of prewashed chopped Romaine lettuce, collected from an ill person’s home.

Additional laboratory testing is pending, to determine if the E. coli O157 found in the sample matches the strain causing the multi-state outbreak linked to Romaine lettuce.

The E. coli O157 bacteria was found in a bag of chopped Fresh Express® brand Leafy Green Romaine lettuce, with a “use by date” of Nov. 14, 2019, lot code Z301 A05B. The source of the Romaine identified on the packaging, was Salinas Valley, Calif.

While the bacteria was found in a bag of Fresh Express® brand, it is important to note that not all ill persons in Wisconsin that are included in this outbreak, have reported consuming Fresh Express® brand salads. At this time, no single product, brand or variety of salad has been reported by all ill individuals.

The investigation is ongoing, to determine the source of contamination and if additional products are linked to illness.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS)advises consumers not to consume any products containing Romaine lettuce from Salinas Valley, Calif., regardless of brand. While some Romaine-containing products were recalled Nov. 21, Romaine from Salinas Valley, Calif., is still available on many store shelves.

It is important to look at product labels for any mention of Salinas Valley, Calif., and avoid purchasing these products.

The DHS also advises consumers to check their refrigerators for any lettuce mixes containing Romaine from Salinas Valley, Calif., and throw them away. Produce drawers and refrigerator surfaces should be cleaned thoroughly after throwing out the product.

As of Dec. 9, Wisconsin now has 33 cases included in this multi-state outbreak. Illnesses in Wisconsin residents, started on dates ranging from Nov. 7-19.

Two cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, have been reported and 14 people have been hospitalized. At this time, 97 precent of ill persons report eating leafy greens in the week before becoming sick, while 88 percent of ill persons report consuming or possibly eating Romaine lettuce in the week before they became sick.

People with E. coli O157 usually get sick with bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps, three to four days after eating food contaminated with the germ. Contact a doctor if it’s possible Romaine lettuce has been consumed from the Salinas region of California, and if somone is having any symptoms.