Alaska E. coli Outbreak Prompts Expanded CDC Warning About Romaine Lettuce from Yuma, AZ

An E. coli outbreak at the Anvil Mountain Correctional Center in Nome, Alaska, has prompted the CDC to expand its consumer advisory to include all types of romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, AZ. Previously, the agency had advised consumers not to eat chopped romaine lettuce from that region, the warning now includes any product containing Yuma-grown romaine lettuce such as whole heads, hearts of romaine, chopped romaine lettuce and salad mixes. Romaine lettuce grown in other states is not part of this warning.

Multi-state E. coli Outbreak Linked to Romaine Lettuce from Yuma, AZ

The warning stems from a multi-state E.coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, AZ. Most of the people sickened reported eating chopped romaine lettuce in the week before they became ill and most of them said they ate salads containing chopped romaine at restaurants.

Genetic testing on samples taken from those who became ill has identified 53 people in 16 states who have been sickened by the same strain of E. coli O157:H7.  Many of them became seriously ill. So far, 31 people have required hospitalization, five of whom are being treated for hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a form of kidney failure associated with E. coli infections that can be fatal.

The CDC is reporting the following case counts by state: Alaska (1)*, Arizona (3), California (1), Connecticut (2), Idaho (10), Illinois (1), Louisiana (1), Michigan (2), Missouri (1), Montana (6), New Jersey (7), New York (2), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (12), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). *The eight new cases from Alaska are not reflected in these totals, the agency said they will be included in its next update.

Based on interviews with case-patients, investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began combing through shipping records and were able to determine that the romaine lettuce associated with the E. coli illnesses was grown in Yuma, AZ. This prompted several recalls from retailers. Neither the CDC nor the FDA has released names of specific brands, distributors or farms linked to this outbreak. However, one lawsuit that has been filed names Panera restaurant.

Industry Response

“Nearly all of the romaine currently harvested and shipped throughout the U.S. is from California growing areas, which have not been identified by the government as being associated with this outbreak,” according to information published on the website of trade group California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA).

California growing areas produce 77 percent of the nation’s romaine lettuce, which is grown in the San Joaquin Valley in the fall and the spring, in the Central Coast region from April to November and the Dessert Region from November to March, according to the LGMA. Arizona is a major growing area from November to April.

This is the time of the year when production of leafy green transitions from Arizona to California and the LGMA says it has been notified by the Arizona Department of Agriculture that shipments of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ growing region have ceased. Romaine leetuce in the U.S. is currently being supplied from “unaffected areas in California, Florida and Central Mexico,” according to the Produce Marketing Association.

Taylor Farms, which is based in Yuma, AZ posted a notification on its website that reads in part:

“Taylor Farms has NOT initiated any form of product recall at this time. There is no indication that any Taylor Farms products are a source, regardless of growing region. To date, we have not been contacted by any federal agencies regarding this matter.

We are aware of and are closely monitoring recent concerns about E. coli in romaine lettuce, following the broad scale warning from CDC regarding romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ growing region. We can confirm that, as of 4/13/18, all romaine lettuce from Taylor Farms is product [sic] from California, Florida or Mexico.”


Anvil Mountain E. coli Outbreak

On April 19, state health officials in Alaska announced that an eight-person E. coli outbreak at the Anvil Mountain
Correctional Center in Nome, Alaska appeared to be connected to the multi-state outbreak. All eight were sickened by the same strain of E. coli identified in the multi-state outbreak and the lettuce they ate before they became ill originated in Yuma, AZ.

The Anvil Mountain cases provide a key piece of evidence that may mark a turning point in the investigation of this outbreak. The romaine they ate was from whole heads of lettuce. This helps to narrow the scope of where the contamination originated and the facility’s food supply records could provide key information about which specific company or companies are involved in the outbreak. Identifying them will better help consumers to avoid the tainted greens.

Consumer Warning About Romaine Lettuce from Yuma, AZ

While the multi-state E. coli outbreak is ongoing, consumers should check to see where the lettuce they are buying was grown and should not purchase from stores or order from restaurants any romaine lettuce from Yuma, AZ or products containing romaine lettuce form Yuma, AZ, the CDC warns.

If you or a family member has been sickened with E. coli after eating romaine lettuce from Yuma, AZ and need help, contact our team of food poisoning lawyers for a free consultation. We have represented people sickened in almost every major foodborne outbreak in the United States for the last 20 years.

Bad Bug Law Team



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