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In the last 24 hours, it is fair to say that tons of romaine lettuce has been removed from America’s store shelves. Another E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce probably has you wondering where this contaminated product is coming from and how is it related to past outbreaks.
But first, let’s review. On Tuesday, we learned of this new outbreak that has infected 32 people in the United States and another 18 in Canada.
In the U.S., the 32 people infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 live in 11 states. Their illnesses started on dates ranging from Oct. 8 to Oct. 31. Thirteen people have been hospitalized, including one person who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
In Canada, 18 people sickened with the same DNA fingerprint of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria as the U.S. patients are from two Canadian provinces: Ontario and Quebec. The 50-person outbreak has not resulted in any deaths on either side of the international border.
But, epidemiologic evidence from the United States and Canada indicates that romaine lettuce is a likely source of the outbreak.
And where was the contaminated romaine grown? Nothing definitive yet, but the early betting is that it came from California’s Monterey County or the surrounding growing season, where the romaine lettuce growing season is in full swing.
Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales told local media it is “very likely” the poisoned romaine came from his country. At the center of the Salinas Valley, Monterey County last year produced more than 40 million cartons — 24 heads to a carton — of romaine lettuce. That’s about half of the U.S. total annual production.