May 6th, 2010
09:55 PM ET

Illness fears spur romaine lettuce recall

Freshway Foods announced Thursday it is voluntarily recalling products containing romaine lettuce with a use-by date of May 12 or earlier because they may be contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria linked to an outbreak of illness.

The recalled products may be the cause of an outbreak of foodborne disease linked to E. coli 0145 in Michigan, Ohio and New York, the Food and Drug Administration said on its website.

So far, 19 confirmed cases of the illness have been reported in the three states, the FDA said. They include 12 people who have been hospitalized, three with the potentially life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS.

In HUS, the body's blood-clotting mechanisms are altered, causing blocked circulation or bleeding in the brain or kidneys.

E. coli O145 can cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which may be bloody. Though most healthy adults recover within a week, young children and the elderly are most at risk of developing HUS.

Blog: What you need to know about E. coli

Federal health authorities are encouraging anyone with such symptoms to contact a health care provider immediately.

The recall came a day after the New York state Public Health Laboratory in Albany reported finding E. coli O145 in an unopened bag of Freshway Foods shredded romaine lettuce, the FDA said.

Ohio-based Freshway Foods said in a news release that the recalled shredded romaine lettuce was sold to wholesalers, food service outlets, and some in-store salad bars and delis in: Alabama, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Consumers are urged not to eat "grab and go" salads sold from in-store salad bars and delis at Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Markets, and Marsh stores.

Romaine lettuce and other types of lettuce and leafy greens from other producers are not affected by the recall.

"Multiple lines of evidence have implicated shredded romaine lettuce from one processing facility as a source of infections in a multi-state outbreak to which this recall may be related," the FDA said.

Preliminary results of traceback investigations indicate that the shredded romaine lettuce eaten by the people who got sick came from one processing facility, it said.

Freshway said a federal investigation of its plant in Sidney, Ohio, uncovered no contamination there.

Freshway Foods is cooperating with the investigation, the FDA said.

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soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. Randy

    With today's technology there is no reason to "heat up" the romaine lettuce to kill the bacteria. There has been great strides in using UV light creating a 99% kill rate without affecting the crisp structure of the lettuce leaf.

    Problem is, companies like Freshway Foods would rather gamble on your health and not spend the necessary funds to prevent this from happening.

    Write to the FDA and express your concerns; otherwise, it gets swept under the rug. Freshway's lobbyists will have this squashed in no time.

    May 15, 2010 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
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