Officials say to avoid romaine lettuce amid E. coli concerns

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Fifty-eight people across the United States and Canada have likely become ill from a strain of E. coli bacteria and Canadian officials are advising people to refrain from eating the leafy green until further notice, an article on the Consumer Reports website says.

On Thursday, Dec. 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 17 illnesses from E. coli infection had been reported in 13 different states: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and Washington.

Five people have been hospitalized in the U.S. and one has died, the Consumer Reports article said.

Canadian officials are confident that romaine lettuce is at the root of the outbreak and are recommending that people avoid it for the time being. U.S. officials have yet to determine that the outbreak has to do with any specific food.

“Because we have not identified a source of the infections, CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food. This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available,” the agency said in a statement.

“The FDA should follow the lead of the Canadian government and immediately warn the public about this risk,“ Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, told Consumer Reports. “The available data strongly suggest that romaine lettuce is the source of the U.S. outbreak," she says. "If so, and people aren’t warned, more may get sick.”

E. coli bacteria infection can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms can appear anywhere from one to 10 days after eating the food, and the CDC recommends seeing a doctor if you have a high fever, bloody stool, or severe vomiting, or if diarrhea lasts longer than three days.