Food & Drink

Food causing the E. Coli outbreak is no longer for sale (probably), the CDC says

Salad with romaine lettuce
Salad with romaine lettuce

The public doesn’t have to worry — probably — about buying the leafy greens connected to the most recent E. Coli outbreak that’s known to have infected 24 people and killed one in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The likely source of the outbreak in the United States appears to be leafy greens, but officials have not specifically identified a type of leafy greens eaten by people who became ill,” the CDC announced Wednesday via website and Tweet. “Leafy greens typically have a short shelf life, and since the last illness started a month ago, it is likely that contaminated leafy greens linked to this outbreak are no longer available for sale. Canada identified romaine lettuce as the source of illnesses there, but the source of the romaine lettuce or where it became contaminated is unknown.

“Because CDC has not identified a specific type of leafy greens linked to the U.S. infections, and because of the short shelf life of leafy greens, CDC is not recommending that U.S. residents avoid any particular food at this time.”

Wednesday’s announcement came after the Public Health Agency of Canada announced Wednesday that its part of the E. Coli outbreak, which it blamed on romaine lettuce, appeared to be over,

Of the 24 known infections in the United States, the most recent was Dec. 12. The CDC has information on only 18 people, one of whom died and two of whom developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure.

California had the most infections (four), followed by Maryland (three), Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Indiana (two each). New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington each have one infection.

The CDC did admit that all 13 people interviewed by state or local health departments said they ate leafy greens the week before they became sick and five of nine specifically reported eating romaine lettuce. The difference between that 56 percent and the 46 percent of healthy people surveyed who ate romaine lettuce in the previous week, U.S. health officials decided, wasn’t large enough to tab romaine lettuce as a likely cause of the illness.

“Currently, no common supplier, distributor, or retailer of leafy greens has been identified as a possible source of the outbreak,” the CDC said.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal