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Romaine Lettuce Safe To Eat Again: Contaminated Lettuce Behind E. Coli Outbreak Now Past Shelf Life

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Romaine lettuce, which is behind the recent E. coli outbreak, is now safe to eat again, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The outbreak caused by E. coli in lettuce is approaching the scale of the 2006 outbreak caused by E. coli in baby spinach, which infected over 200 people and killed five.

Is Lettuce Safe To Eat Now?

In its latest update over the E. coli bacteria in lettuce issue, the CDC noted that the last shipments of the contaminated lettuce were harvested on April 16, according to the Food and Drug Administration. It is therefore unlikely that any of the dangerous romaine lettuce may still be bought in stores or served in restaurants, as the vegetable only has a 21-day shelf life.

According to the CDC, it takes about two to three weeks from when a person becomes ill due to an E. coli infection until the illness is reported. The CDC noted that the most recent reports of illnesses caused by E. coli bacteria was from back when the contaminated lettuce was still available in restaurants and stores.

The CDC has also stopped advising consumers and businesses to dispose of romaine lettuce if they could not confirm that it was not part of the infected harvest.

E. Coli In Lettuce Infects Almost 200 People

As of May 15, 172 people across 32 states have been victimized by the E. coli outbreak, increasing by 23 people and three states compared to the previous week. According to the CDC, 20 victims had developed the dreaded hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe consequence of E. coli infections that targets the kidneys. A total of 75 people were sick enough to require hospitalization, with one death in California linked to the outbreak.

E. coli bacteria is actually pretty common and is often harmless as part of a healthy digestive system. However, certain E. coli strains may cause illness, such as the O157:H7 strain found in the infected romaine lettuce that produces the Shiga toxin. The toxin causes diarrhea, vomiting, and kidney failure.

The infected romaine lettuce has been linked to the harvest from Yuma, Arizona. California, however, has the highest number of E. coli infection cases at 39 victims, followed by Pennsylvania at 21 victims.

The FDA is continuing to investigate the illnesses, as the outbreak may not simply be linked to a single grower, harvester, processor, or distributor. The agency is examining all possibilities on the source of the E. coli outbreak, including that the contamination may have happened at any point between growing the lettuce and distributing the vegetable to customers.

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