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. Dan

    Probably should consider Fact vs Fiction before going into a panic. This is not a national company, Its a small local company out of Ohio. In the large salad processing facilities, its a completely sterile environment where the workers are wearing suits and barely come into contact at all with the product except to get it onto the initial belts. The lab is constantly testing for any potential E.coli problems which would have began in the field. With the advent of RFID tagging, any issues can now be traced from the field of origin, to the store they arrive in and quickly pulled from the shelves if they even get there at all. Previously E.Coli outbreaks have occured from wild pigs in the fields, so this isnt and issue of corporate america being lazy about your health. I dont know what planet some of you come from where you think these things can be 100% avoided. From previous outbreaks it was discovered you can often times not wash off E.Coli, not when it exist within the cell walls of the leaf.

    May 7, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. My Tummy Hurts

    I live in Columbus Ohio and I ate the e-coli. I have been pooping my pants for 2 days but even with my constant crapping I have to admit Doug is right.

    It is like the flu man....don't let it scare the crap out of you...not that big of a deal. People need to relax a bit and not take things to the most extreme in EVERY CASE.

    I will respond for the paranoid scared of lifers out there (liberal hippies you know who you dude)

    "well what if my kids eat 10 lbs of lettuce and they don't die but they turn into teenage mutant ninja turtles. Then because of the lettuce they fight crime but one of the criminals is really a tough guy and he beats my son to an inch of his mutant life..well you sir have no idea how serious this is"

    It hurts your need to act like we live in NYC where there are true threats.

    May 7, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Red, Clayton,NC

    E. coli comes from poop not urine. Urine is sterile so people peeing in fields does not harm our food supply. What does happen in unclean factories and processing plants is mice, voles, rats, birds and other small vermin get into places that are not regularly cleaned (as they should be) and their feces are causing a lot of these problems. It does not take very much feces to start a bacterial outbreak and it takes several days to grow a culture of the bacteria so processed food can get into the food supply fairly quickly and people become sick before there is even any indication of where the bacteria originated. Unhygenic people can be a very small point source for bacterial contamination at the processing level. Most crops are washed now so foreign material is mostly removed at the field level. Again urine is not an issue. But mouse, vole, rat, and bird manure is a problem. Those forms of feces need to be totally removed and kept from the final products in all processing facilities. Simple tests and searches can determine the presence of vermin.Eradication of vermin is fairly easy and cost effective. Keeping a clean work environment in the food industry should not be something the government has to regulate. We should DEMAND it of our food producers.

    May 7, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. My Tummy Hurts

    And for the person that said, "wash your food before you eat it"

    You sir have no idea how hard it is for ME TO MAKE A DECISION. I need it done by someone esle. That is just absolutely absurd that you would try and make this in any way about the individual. I need my bagged salad. I need it now. And I don't have time to wash it. Thank You!!!

    Grow a garden.

    May 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vicki

    i find it silly, or maybe saddening really, how many people are instantly jumping to blame "mexicans". They're not going to poop on the same lettuce they plan to use on their tacos. This contamination has affected far more lettuce spread into enough states in one event to be just the work of unsanitary worker practices or all the lettuce would always be contaminated. i'm leaning more toward the fertilizer and the water supply - are there any feedlots near the lettuce farms? i would look there first!

    May 7, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BajaJohn

    Don't worry, be happy...soon there will be no further E-Coli contaminations because there will be no one there to pick the lettuce. No lettuce, no tomatoes and maybe no potatoes.

    May 7, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. psuath

    it's not just cheap labor, it's cheap practices all around. read some of the FDA warning letters concerning GMP violations. bugs/rats being able to live in the factories. pots/pans not being cleaned, people contaminating utensils. it's quite disturbing. what's worse is that in the letters, the company has been cited several times in the past, yet no action was taken.

    May 7, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Guest

    My Tummy Hurts: This strain of e. coli can be deadly to elderly people or young children.

    I assume, by your insensitivity (and your level of maturity) that you are a healthy person in your 20s.

    May 7, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AlabamaGuest

    Fresh Express may be a different company and maybe their lettuce hasn't been recalled yet, but last Thursday I ate a Fresh Express caesar salad kit (I ate the whole bag for dinner) from Publix and was suffering from symptoms of food poisoning later that night. I can't say if it's e.coli or not, but I will say that a week later I am still symptomatic, can't stomach any "real" food and my doctor told me it's most likely e.coli. I'm not an expert, I can't tell you the source of Fresh Express salads, but I can tell you that it made me sick. Very, very sick.

    May 7, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Robert Wang

    4 in our party eating at Chil's became deathly ill. All had the burger with lettuce and was wondering if anyone else has experienced a Chili's issue. Could it have been this lettuce?

    May 7, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. LechugaYRes

    Speaking from where the "contaminated" product potentially came from, I have never seen more uneducated ignorance written in one place in all of my life. YOU people have absolutely no idea what the American Agriculturalist of today goes through on a daily basis to make sure you can sit on your fat backsides in cities and google search your liberal views and ideas. This is what we think of those ideas. . . KEEP THEM TO YOURSELVES!

    May 8, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. Monty Montgomery

    I find it difficult to believe that our Health Department can not find the source of e-coli in green leaf veggies when the answer is right in front of them. Waste from water processing plants as well as waste from pig, chicken and dairy farms is burned at high temperatures. The reprocessed waste is then sold to vegetable farms. This –it is then spread on everything as fertilizer.

    The questions we should ask: Can the extreme heat process kill all bacteria (looks clumpy when piled high for drying)? Are leafy green vegetables cultivated next to soils more susceptible to impurities then vine vegetables? There are at lease two ways bacteria could affect vegetables one when taking in nutrients, the other from leafs covered with infected soil dust.

    With-in the last four years we have had e-coli spinach, tomatoes and lettuce.


    May 8, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Arlene

    Fresh Express & Freshway Foods are NOT the same. It's so easy - apart from just reading the packaging, go to each company's web site & you can see the difference.

    I just prepared my Fresh Express romaine lettuce lunch/dinner to eat later. I expect to live to tell you how delicious it was.

    May 9, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Peggy

    Now that we're learning that this outbreak is wider than previously reported, perhaps it explains the near-death experience I had with a "stomach virus" two weeks ago?

    My comment/question is for all of those folks who think we need "less government" - do you really want to save money by having fewer food inspectors? This is the kind of instance where I WANT the government to be MORE involved, not less. Whether the culprit in this outbreak (or others) is due to poor personal habits, insufficient plant cleanliness or not enough other steps taken to prevent food poisoning, I want more oversight so that the public good is #1, not profit.

    If we want to save money, let's cut no-win military adventures and spending (which account for 18% of our government spending).

    May 11, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. Yuma Resident

    Im with a few of the others. This has ABSOLUTLY NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR HISPANICS WORKING IN OUR FIELDS. I am very familiar with our Agriculture here in Yuma. Im here to tell you they have more food safety procedures than you know. Another thing I dont see any of you who are complaining see you working in our fields. The people whom you call mexicans work harder than you could ever think & do an excellent job!!!! No they are not illegal....

    May 12, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
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