People should stay away from romaine lettuce until U.S. and Canadian health officials get to the bottom of an outbreak of E. coli infections, Consumer Reports says.
The consumer advocacy group called on the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do more to warn people about the outbreak, which at last count had made 58 people sick in the U.S. and Canada.
In the U.S., the infections have occurred in 13 states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington state). Five people in the U.S. have been hospitalized and one has died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There has also been one death in Canada.
"The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada," the CDC said in its Dec. 28 statement.
Thorough cooking usually kills foodborne bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella, but lettuce is not usually cooked.
It can take weeks to track down the source of a food poisoning outbreak. Food is often shipped to central plants from various farms, where it is processed, mixed together, packaged, and redistributed.
The toxin produced by E. coli 0157 can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. The most dangerous effect is hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure.
"Very young children and the elderly are more likely to develop severe illness and HUS than others, but even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill," the CDC said.
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