The Washington State Department of Health is investigating an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that has sickened several people in the state. From mid to late May, there have been nine laboratory confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 of which eight have matching genetic patterns. One additional suspect case also is under investigation by the state department of health. Of the 10 cases, there are seven adolescents (age 13 through 19) and three adults (21 and older). No deaths have been reported.
According to Steve Fuller of the Washington State Department of Health, Division of Environmental Health Food Safety Program, an investigation is being conducted to try to determine the source of the illnesses. The epidemiology points to romaine lettuce as the most likely source, though it remains one of several possibilities, and romaine lettuce has not been implicated officially in the outbreak.
Fuller added the investigation is ongoing and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is conducting a trace-back investigation to determine if a source can be identified. Commenting on an earlier Ohio media report that the particular strain of E. coli O157:H7 found in a stool sample from a 52-year-old woman who died matched the strain found in several people infected in Washington State, Ohio Department of Health spokesman Kristopher Weiss said that at this point the case remains under investigation and is not linked the California outbreak.
Last year my friends at Dole had some problems with romaine lettuce (well, at least the Canadians thought so):
DOLE BRAND HEARTS DELIGHT LETTUCE SALAD MAY CONTAIN E. coli O157:H7 BACTERIA
OTTAWA, September 16, 2007 – The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning the public not to consume Dole brand Hearts Delight lettuce salad (Ready to eat blend of romaine, green leaf & butter lettuce hearts) described below because this product may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.
The affected product, Dole brand Hearts Delight lettuce salad (Ready to eat blend of romaine, green leaf & butter lettuce hearts), produce of USA, is sold in 227 g packages bearing UPC 0 71430 01038 9, BIUB (Best If Used By) date 07SE19 and lot code A24924B. This product may have been distributed nationally.