Freshway Foods and the Food and Drug Administration announced mid-morning a recall of Romaine Lettuce after illnesses were reported in Michigan, Ohio and New York – primarily impacting students at University of Michigan, The Ohio State university and Daemen University. The Food and Drug Administration reported the E. coli O145 illnesses included 12 people who have been hospitalized and three with potentially life-threatening symptoms – Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). 50 other people may also be ill.
The Smoking Gun
The New York State Public Health Laboratory in Albany discovered E. coli O145 contamination in a bag of Freshway Foods shredded romaine lettuce.
In a press release, Freshway Foods said the E. coli O145 – tainted Romaine Lettuce was sold to wholesalers, food service outlets, in-store salad bars and delis in Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The affected lettuce has a "best if used by" date of May 12 or earlier. The recall also affects "grab and go" salads sold at Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Markets and Marsh grocery stores.
Given the time of the year, the most likely area for growing Romaine Lettuce is Arizona – likely Yuma. The investigation is likely hampered by the failure of health departments throughout the United States from actually testing ill persons stools for E. coli O145. For a bit(e) of history on lettuce and e. coli, visit www.outbreakdatabase.com.