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. Meganap

    Good thing I grow my own lettuce.. Not to mention most of my produce comes from organic and local sources anyway. No one should buy from these food giants.

    May 7, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. Bill

    Become vegan and stop eating meat. Read or listen to "The Face On Your Plate" and you will never go back to meat or poultry.

    May 7, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. mike

    I agree wuth the post by Jessica concerning dirty truckers. Maybe Arizona will pass a law requiring police to stop any truck they suspect of being driven by a filthy-handed driver. You can tell who they are by their shoes.

    May 7, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. kb

    Wow, this coming 2 days after I made a complaint to Dole about a dead ladybug found in my sealed package of Romaine lettuce mix. Unfortunately my family did eat some of that lettuce before noticing the ladybug. Should I be worried about an E coli infection?

    May 7, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. YummyDrFood


    The presence of insect parts in food is not indicative of E. coli contamination. E. coli winds up in food by fecal contamination, usually from mammals.

    For the blog:
    Here's the CDC's report of the outbreak. Enjoy.

    May 7, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. vr

    Fresh Express is not the same as Freshway

    May 7, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. MWA

    Grow your own lettuce. Save your life.

    May 7, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  8. -DC-

    Mmm.... poop.

    May 7, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. Katie

    I have to say the FDA cares more about non-shatter lightbulbs in the bathroom across from the processing plant then the magots on the machine (I saw this frist hand in a processing plant where I worked). Companies cover things up and are left to make the decisions. The FDA might only come once a year if that to a processing plant. Don't put all your faith in a government organization just yet. Maybe we should be looking at growing food on a smaller scale rather then giant operations. ALthough the vast majority of the AMerican public would cry if their food cost more or didn't look as perfect. My advise, Buy local organic food when possible from a farm down the road. Meet the farmer and his/her workers and see where your food comes from. I know it's not possible for everyone to shop locally and buy organic, but look for farmers markets whenever possible. It might be worth the extra effort and price.

    May 7, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  10. John from NH

    alot of it also comes from the conditions the workers have to work in. Picking vegetables gets you paid on how much you pick. So, if you take bathroom breaks it cuts down on how much you can pick. Going in the field cuts down on down time....

    May 7, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. doobie

    To anyone who thinks buyijng from farmers markets really matters' how do you know where there produce comes from? they supply food to yuppies who pay alot more for food that probably gets sold to grocery stores as well. don't believe the local hype. most people don't farm anymre, if you really want to knhow where it comes from , grow iit in your back yard.

    May 7, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. doobie

    most of the farmer market stuff is marketed to dummies who really feel good when they pay $10 for 5 apples. it's the same concept of when people go to j. crew to buy a t shirt for $50 when they can get it from wallmart for $5, it all comes from china anyway! shop smart people, and don't always believe what you hear, use your head. at the end of the day, the goal of merchants is to get YOUR money into THEIR hands, and they will tell you anything, for real.

    May 7, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  13. CK

    I saw them in Walmart on Monday, May 3rd removing lettus from the shelves. I wonder why – 5 days later they are just announcing this?

    May 7, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. brm

    I worked at a bagged salad company and the sanitation processes there made me sick,, or should I say lack of,,,,,,, even in the bathrooms there is no soap to wash your hands. all the employee's are from latino countries and work their buts off and are taught nothing about sanitation whatsoever. I have watched these people pick their nose and scratch their crotch then go right ahead and keep working, never thinking about washing their hands. When they go to the bathroom it is disgusting as they put the toilet paper in a box on the floor instead of in the toilet, never once have I ever seen one of them wash their hands after using the bathroom. I would never eat a bagged salad again and only by heads of lettuce and make sure I wash them thoroughly first. Dont believe the bag when it says double washed etc. make sure you wash it at least two times. Even then I would question eating the ssalad. Eat at your own risk.

    May 7, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. doobie

    the contamination is watering the plants with polluted water from cow dung, a mexican going poo in the field isn't going to do it, sorry.

    May 7, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
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