Romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak tied to 9 more illnesses, FDA says

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While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautioned people last week to only purchase and consume romaine lettuce labeled as being from noncontaminated areas, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food spokesman Jack Wilbur said consumers in Utah can now be "fairly confident" that all lettuce they purchase is safe from the recent E. coli outbreak.

The public health agency says that some romaine lettuce is now being labeled with a harvest location, and consumers should check for those labels to confirm the vegetable was not harvested in the central coastal growing regions of northern and central California. Investigators are now focusing on Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura counties. Other counties may be added or removed from that list as the investigation goes on.

"Traceback information from four restaurants in three different states so far has implicated 10 different distributors, 12 different growers, and 11 different farms as potential sources of the contaminated lettuce", the FDA said Thursday.

No deaths have been reported in the outbreak, although 19 people have been hospitalized and two of those developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, according to the agency.

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Another E. coli outbreak also affecting romaine lettuce in the spring killed five people and made more than 200 sick in 36 states. No one has died yet.

The CDC says testing from those patients shows they were infected with E.coli bacteria that had the same DNA fingerprint as a strain taken from people sickened in a 2017 update that impacted leafy greens in the United States and Romaine in Canada.

The produce industry's plan to label romaine lettuce shipments with harvest dates and regions is still in place, Wilbur said, but will take some time to fully implement. If your romaine does not have this information, you should not eat it, the agency says.

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