E Coli Outbreak


Kahn Li McClaire, Co-Editor

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced an outbreak of Escherichia coli, a bacteria commonly known as E. coli, on November 20th. The outbreak has been linked to Romaine lettuce grown in the  California counties of Monterey, San Benito and Santa Barbara.

The lettuce could have been infected in the field, during harvesting and transporting or through the contact with the feces or manure of infected animals. The bacteria can naturally live inside the animals and when the animals are infected, they can spread the bacteria through their feces.Further contamination could have occured in stores or even in homes.

There have been reports of people falling ill after being exposed to romaine lettuce grown in California. Some strands of E. coli can cause disease due to the Shiga toxin found in the bacteria. Shiga toxins produce symptoms of stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and even life-threatening infections. The FDA released that forty-three people in the US have been infected due to the contaminated romaine lettuce.

As of November 26, there is a food safety alert on romaine lettuce. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is “advising that [consumers do] not eat and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any romaine lettuce harvest from the Central Coastal growing regions of northern and central California. If you do not know where the romaine is from, do not eat it.”

The Fulton County School Nutrition Program took immediate action to the news. Cafeteria managers from all schools were notified that “any romaine lettuce received on the week of Nov 12 must be discharged according to standard producer.” The Nutrition Program contacted the produce distributor, Royal, and were “confirmed that any orders on romaine lettuce were cancelled for the week of Nov 26.”  

Due to the lack of romaine lettuce, many different leafy vegetables were in high demand. Cafeteria managers “worked to get iceberg, kale and spinach instead of romaine lettuce.” Some schools were unable to obtain any source of greens due to the outbreak.

The FDA has yet to release if all romaine lettuce is safe to consume. So when buying or eating romaine lettuce, make sure it was not grown in California and if unsure of the location, do not eat it!