Consumer Reports is urging consumers to avoid Romaine lettuce while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigate a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infections. The CDC released a media statement on Thursday, December 28 announcing an investigation of a multistate outbreak involving 13 states. At the time of the release, 17 illnesses had been reported between November 15 and December 18, 2017.
The connection of the U.S. outbreak to Romain lettuce has not been made by the CDC, but it was made by the Public Health Agency of Canada to an outbreak of STEC O157:H7 in several provinces. This prompted Consumer Reports to urge precautionary avoidance of the product pending the outcome of the CDC’s investigation.
In its media release, the CDC stated:
Whole genome sequencing is being performed on samples of bacteria making people sick in the United States to give us information about whether these illnesses are related to the illnesses in Canada. Preliminary results show that the type of E. coli making people sick in both countries is closely related genetically, meaning the ill people are more likely to share a common source of infection.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada. In the United States, state and local public health officials are interviewing sick people to determine what they ate in the week before their illness started. CDC is still collecting information to determine whether there is a food item in common among sick people, including leafy greens and romaine.
Because we have not identified a source of the infections, CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food. This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available.
Consumer Reports food experts took a “better safe, than sorry” approach in their January 3, 2018 article and advised consumers stop eating the product for now.