November 23, 2020

CDC Updates Second Mystery E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak; Romaine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated the second mystery E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that may be associated with leafy greens or romaine lettuce. This outbreak has now sickened at least 39 people in 18 states. There are three unsolved multistate E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks ongoing at this time; all of the investigation notices mention leafy greens, and one mentions an unnamed restaurant. The outbreak investigation notice states that "This outbreak is different from the two other E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks CDC is currently investigating." This is the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 which caused a massive outbreak last year that was linked to romaine lettuce from the Salinas Valley growing region in California. At least 167 people were sickened in that outbreak … [Read more...]

How Common Are E. coli O157:H7 Leafy Greens Outbreaks?

There are currently two active E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in the United States that were announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this month. Neither has had a specific food, brand, store, or restaurant associated with it, although the FDA has hinted that one may be linked to a restaurant and one may be linked to leafy greens. How common are foodborne E. coli O157:H7 leafy green outbreaks? The CDC has a fact sheet on leafy greens that will shed light on this question and also helps consumers protect themselves against foodborne illness linked to those products. From 2014 to 2018 there have been 51 foodborne illness outbreaks linked to leafy greens. Five of those outbreaks were publicized by the government. Two of those five outbreaks were inked to packaged … [Read more...]

Second Secret E. coli Outbreak Sickens 23 in 12 States, Hospitalizes 10

A second secret E. coli outbreak has sickened 23 people and hospitalized 10, according to information released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late last night. The first outbreak, which was caused by a different strain of E. coli O157:H7, was also announced last night. This outbreak is caused by the same strain of bacteria that contaminated romaine lettuce and sickened 167 people in 27 states in 2019. While this information is significant, it doesn't mean that this outbreak was caused by leafy greens. A specific food has not been identified yet, and the government is not making any recommendations for consumers to avoid any particular food. But in another twist, the outbreak investigation statement says, "State and local public health officials are … [Read more...]

CDC Announces Two Mystery E. coli Outbreaks; Leafy Greens?

Tonight the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced two mystery E. coli outbreaks that may be linked to leafy greens that have sickened 44 people and hospitalized 18; three have developed HUS and one person has died. In the first outbreak, 21 people in 8 states are ill. Eight people have been hospitalized, and one person who lived in Michigan has died. Illness onset dates range from June 6, 2020 to October 5, 2020. The patient age range is from 2 to 75 years. Of 16 people who gave information to investigators, eight were hospitalized. One person developed HUS. The patient case count by state is: California (7), Florida (1), Illinois (1), Michigan (2), New Jersey (1), Ohio (7), Utah (1), and Wisconsin (1). The strain of E. coli O157:H7 causing illness in … [Read more...]

Learn How Romaine Lettuce Is Contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 Bacteria

With many E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce in 2017, 2018, and 2019, food safety experts are concerned that another outbreak could occur in 2020. Let's take a look at how romaine lettuce is contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in the first place. That pathogen exists in the guts of ruminant animals, more specifically, cows and sheep. Deer can also carry it. How does it travel from those animals to farm fields? There are several factors that come into play here. First, many concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are located near fields where romaine and other leafy greens are grown. Second, feces can contaminate ground water and canals that are a source of irrigation water. And third, two of the physical attributes of the lettuce play a role. E. … [Read more...]

Forty Leafy Greens STEC Outbreaks Occurring During 2009 to 2018

The October 2020 issue of the CDC's Emerging Infectious Diseases has a study about E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks from 2009 to 2018 and found that there were forty leafy greens STEC outbreaks during that time frame. STEC is Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria, most often E. coli O157:H7. Those outbreaks caused 1,212 illnesses, 77 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and eight deaths. More of those outbreaks were linked to romaine lettuce than any other type of leafy green. Forty-five percent of those outbreaks occurred in the fall, and 28% occurred in the spring. Leafy greens are the second most common source of foodborne STEC outbreaks, after ground beef. The connection between those two products is that cattle are considered the major reservoir for the pathogen, and STEC … [Read more...]

Will There Be a 2020 E. coli Romaine Lettuce Outbreak?

Food safety experts are holding their collective breath. Now that fall is here, will there be a 2020 E. coli romaine lettuce outbreak? In previous years, by this time there has been at least one serious outbreak linked to leafy greens. Is our luck about to run out? Or have changes made by the California and Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreements and government made a difference? There has been at least one E. coli outbreak in the U.S.  linked to leafy greens every year since 2017; hundreds have been sickened, dozens have been hospitalized, and several people died. One of the issues in these outbreak developments, especially in the past several years, has to do with climate. When there has been an unusually hot and dry summer, farmers in California and Arizona have to use more … [Read more...]

FDA Investigation Into Three Fall 2019 Romaine E. coli O157:H7 Outbreaks

The FDA has released a report detailing their investigation into three fall 2019 romaine E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks that sickened at least 188 people.  That agency worked with the FDA and state officials to investigation how the romaine lettuce was contaminated. The romaine E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks began in September 2019 and were declared over in January 2020. Some clusters within each of these outbreaks were traced to a common grower with multiple ranches and fields in the Salinas, California growing region. That grower was not named. Investigators found one of the outbreak strains of E. coli O157:H7 in a sample taken from public land less than two miles upslope from a produce farm with multiple fields that was identified during traceback investigations. Other Shiga … [Read more...]

Safer Food Choices For People At Risk For Food Poisoning Complications

People who are at risk for serious compilations from food poisoning need to be careful about the food they buy and how it is prepared, as well as staying vigilant about food recalls and food outbreak notices. But there are other ways to protect yourself if you fall into a high risk category for food poisoning. There are safer food choices to make at the grocery store. For instance, at the deli, avoid purchasing cold smoked fish or products that contain cold smoked fish. In addition, do not choose sashimi, sushi, or ceviche, since those products use raw or undercooked fish or shellfish. Instead, choose canned fish or seafood, and seafood that has been cooked to a minimum final internal temperature of 145°F. Do not buy unpasteurized (raw) milk, unpasteurized fruit juices, or raw … [Read more...]

Consumer Reports Finds Listeria in Some Brands of Leafy Greens

Consumer Reports finds Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in both bulk and bagged prewashed lettuce. This disturbing discovery highlights the fact that leafy greens have been the source of many serious multistate food poisoning outbreaks in the last few years. Researchers at the company purchased 284 samples of fresh greens at several grocery store chains, including Hannaford, Whole Foods, and Costco. The samples included lettuce, spinach, and kale. The company found six leafy greens samples that were tainted with Listeria monocytogenes. Two  specific products that tested positive for the pathogen were packaged, prewashed greens made of spinach, and an organic spinach-spring mix. The remaining four products were loose heads or bunches of green kale, green leaf lettuce, spinach, and … [Read more...]

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