Maine officials urging caution with romaine lettuce after E. coli outbreak

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State officials are urging Mainers to be cautious with store-chopped romaine lettuce, after a multi-state E. coli outbreak linked to lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona was reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have not been any reported E. coli cases in Maine, New Hampshire or Massachusetts.

“Although there have been no reports to the department of any illnesses in Maine, according to the (Maine) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, illnesses that occurred after March 29, 2018, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of two to three weeks,” according to an alert posted on Friday by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

The U.S. CDC is reporting 53 E. coli cases in 16 states, resulting in 31 people being hospitalized between March 13 and April 6, the latest data available.

The closest states to Maine that have reported cases of E. coli illness from romaine lettuce are New York and Connecticut, with two cases in each state.

The U.S. CDC is advising people who purchased romaine to “throw it away.”

“At this time, no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has been identified,” according to the U.S. CDC. “Consumers anywhere in the United States who have store-bought chopped romaine lettuce at home, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.”

E. coli symptoms include “severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting,” according to the U.S. CDC, and while most recover within a week, some infections are severe or life-threatening. In rare cases, it can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, a combination of anemia, acute kidney failure and a low platelet count in the blood.

Some retailers, including Sam’s Club and Walmart, have recalled romaine lettuce from their stores as a precautionary measure, even though no brand name has been identified with the outbreak.

Joe Lawlor can be reached at [email protected] or 791-6376

Twitter: @joelawlorph

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