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. Guest

    Thank you Ash for clearing that up.

    Finger-pointing at "third world countries" and their "habits" is not the issue. The problem lies here within our own wealthy, advanced country and our filthy cattle lots. This strain of bacteria never existed until we as a [clean and sophisticated] society demanded cheap, fast burger meat. The contamination is from water runoff in the lots where diseased cattle stand deep in their own contaminated manure every day, all day.

    MMMM now I really want a Big Mac....

    May 7, 2010 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. Catherine

    You do not get that strain of E-Coli from just not washing your hands. It comes from bad water that has been in contact with cow poop from corn fed cows. Blame the cows because that is where hemmoragic e-coli comes from, not the guy pulling your lettuce. That strain of e-coli is from your friendly factory farm bred animals, not 'those people from third world countries'.

    May 7, 2010 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. mother of four

    This is not the first time this has happened and it is not the last–in fact it has happened to produce in other countries as well. Growing and producing food in an assembly line fashion is responsible for this and it is going to continue occurring because these huge factory farms cannot police the actions of all their employees, cannot catch every problem with their crops or what animals pass through their huge fields.

    You can help–buy local (farmer's markets are great) and grow your own when you can. Like lots of other crops, Bare minimum–if you don't have a yard–Lettuce and spinach are easily raised in flower pots with relatively little effort. All you need is a sunny spot (light limited to six hours a day) and decent soil and you can grow it year round. Grow organically and from untreated, heirloom seed when you can. After that, it is a no brainer–wash your hands the way you always do when handling your food.

    May 7, 2010 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mrs. Tiger Woods

    Great, there goes my taco salad.

    May 7, 2010 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. Wendy

    Wrong ash...This is from people not washing their hands, plain and simple. It is people that cause this.

    May 7, 2010 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. barry

    American capitalism, people! When the only goal is profit and growth in profit, the safety and well being of the consumer suffers. Watch Food Inc. – you will boil with rage at how these conglomerates, hand-in-hand with our government, continually place money in front of the the short and long term health of the American people – and it is both sides – Republican and Democrat! Blah!

    May 7, 2010 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. JF

    This is so annoying! We love to eat salads and wish we didn't have to worry about this now. It's always something!

    May 7, 2010 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. Linda

    I work at Fresh Express and their salads are not included in this recall!!!!!

    May 7, 2010 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. TR

    Second time in one year I've read about a lettuce recall after my second episode of the very symptoms listed in the 5th paragraph. I had a feeling I ate something bad last weekend. Again. Since I'm in NY, I'm assuing I got a bunch of the bad stuff. Nice.

    May 7, 2010 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  10. StopNonsense

    Anything that is not cooked, needs to be handled carefully because of bacteria growth. I always rinse my stuff with tap water but that won't remove all bacteria. I wonder if that vegetable spray will remove the bacteria?

    May 7, 2010 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  11. foxglove

    It is true that people are not washing their hands as they should. Until these vendors get serious with their employees about this problem you are going to have the out breaks. If you get sick place a file a against the vendors.

    Another precaution when you get ANY veggies in store regardless if say it has been washed, wash themt again it only a couple of minutes. It's you health at stake.

    May 7, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. Leaf

    Sometimes it has nothing to do with washing or not washing your hands. By over washing/bleaching/applying Lysol to everything to try and kill every single germ, you can actually be doing more harm than good. Bacteria, like everything else on this planet, can mutate and evolve through natural selection. Perhaps this strain of bacteria is resistant to the onslaught of germ killing mechanisms that we use today. But, as I am not a microbiologist I do not know for sure. Just thought I would point this out. 🙂

    May 7, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jessica

    I used to work for a fast food restaurant, and I can tell you all the contamination does not happen at the field or happens right at the 18-wheeler trucks that are shipping the produce, their drivers are all contaminated with all kind of things, their hands have been in the most nasty places you can imagine, and I will not mention here.

    May 7, 2010 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. Nicole

    Prepackaged romaine is still ok:

    May 7, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. kiki

    I wouldnt doubt it if the mexican pickers sabotaged the produe by whiping their feces on the produce to protest the arizona/federal law they are evil people.

    May 7, 2010 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
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