Romaine lettuce outbreak tied to contaminated canal water

Romaine lettuce outbreak tied to contaminated canal water

Contaminated canal water in Yuma, AZ, led to the outbreak of E. coli in romaine lettuce this spring, according to the CDC.

This was the country's biggest E. coli food poisoning outbreak in over 10 years.

Since the outbreak was first announced on April 10, tainted lettuce has sickened 210 people in 36 states.

Ninety-six of those folks were sick enough to be hospitalized; 27 of those developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

They previously connected the illnesses with romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona, which supplies most of the romaine sold in the US during the winter, the Associated Press reported. Until now, the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration had been unable to determine the specific source of contamination.

On Thursday, officials said the outbreak strain of E. coli bacteria was found in an irrigation canal in the Yuma area.

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Investigators are now working to learn how the E. coli got into the water, and how the water, in turn, contaminated the romaine lettuce from several farms.

The FDA continues their investigation to find out how the bacteria got in the water and, consequently, how the water contaminated the romaine lettuce.

Despite the confusion surrounding the source of the bacteria, consumers can shop safely. Officials had previously traced a breakout at an Alaskan prison to heads of romaine lettuce grown at Harrison Farms in Yuma, but they were unable to pinpoint one farm or site used for distribution or packaging as the culprit for other cases. Some people who became sick did not report eating romaine lettuce but had had close contact with someone who fell ill from eating it. Since more than 21 days have passed, all romaine lettuce on the shelves now should be safe.

The outbreak also affected our neighbors to the north with eight Canadian illnesses reported in five provinces: British Columbia (1), Alberta (1), Saskatchewan (2), Ontario ( 3), and Quebec (1).

Many hope that new policies could be put in place to catch the source of an outbreak sooner, or even before illness occurs. A new cluster was reported the next day. "One would hope that the FDA would at some point require trace-back laws".

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