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10 Facts about E. Coli

Romaine Outbreak Update, Controversy, Jokes and E. Coli Facts

· Food Safety,Education,Consulting


On November 20th, 2018, I received an email from United Fresh Produce stating that they had been diligently working with the CDC and the US FDA to understand what had been happening the past couple of months. According to the latest update posted on the CDC website, illnesses started on October 1st through October 31st, 2018. Eleven of 14 people interviewed had eaten romaine lettuce the week prior to getting ill. The strain of E. Coli 0157:H7 that is being isolated from tests is similar to the strain that was isolated in the leafy green E. Coli 0157:H7 outbreak of 2017. The Spring 2018 outbreak was a different strain.


There's a lot of concern in the food industry about the reaction of the CDC and FDA to suggest a voluntary recall of romaine lettuce and have all customers throw out any that they possess. The CDC and the FDA are paid to protect the public and until they have better answers, they have to go with where the evidence is taking them - and it is taking them to romaine lettuce at this stage. Unfortunately, this is also causing a lot of farmers to lose a significant amount of invested time and money. Romaine lettuce takes approximately 75-85 days to mature for harvest. So unfortunately, by everyone throwing out their romaine inventory and not ordering their typical orders, the growers are suffering the loss. Not all growers are the source of the outbreak, but the CDC and FDA have to be overcautious until they figure out the source and can make appropriate adjustments.


Once the notice went out, Safe Food En Route, LLC quickly posted on all social media outlets to alert clients, friends and family to discard their romaine lettuce. While most people took this serious, today there is a "Marked Safe From..." post that is going around regarding the Romaine Lettuce. While this is semi-funny, there is a slight rub that people do not quite understand the severity of E Coli 0157:H7 and how it is affecting the people that have contracted the illness. So, it feels like a good time to educate the public on E Coli 0157:H7 a little bit.


Found on the Marler Clark (A Food Safety Law Firm) website:

1. E. Coli bacteria strains naturally are found in human and animal intestines.

2. E. Coli infections account for about 75,000 illnesses/year and over 2000 hospitalizations in the United States each year according to a cited 2011 CDC report.

3. E. Coli 0157:H7, E. coli 0145, and E. Coli 0121:H19 produce a toxin called Shiga toxin, which causes illness in humans, but not in livestock.

4. E. Coli 0157:H7 is most common found in cattle, but other domesticated animals can carry it.

5. Though E. Coli 0157:H7 is found in animals, the sources of it for illness are typically in order: food (69%), water (18%), animals or their environment (8%) and person-to-person contact (6%).

6. E. Coli onset symptoms begin between 2-5 days after the infection occurs.

7. E. Coli symptoms include sudden onset of cramps, abdominal pain, and diarrhea within 24 hours. Diarrhea becomes increasingly watery and then bloody. Often, accompanying symptoms include nausea and headaches and sometimes fever and chills.

8. Ten percent of E. coli 0157:H7 infections cause Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. This is usually caused when the Shiga toxins get into the bloodstream and cause injury to the kidney and sometimes kidney failure. When this occurs, patients also suffer damage to the pancreas and the central nervous system.

9. Foods to avoid: Raw Sprouts, Undercooked meat, Raw Juices, and Raw Milk. But, we're starting to see an uptick in leafy greens with it as well. The CDC and FDA is investigating this now.

10. In the 1990s, E Coli was responsible for sickening 700 people and killed 4 children that just went to have a hamburger at Jack in the Box.

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