CDC: Romaine lettuce may be behind E. coli outbreak

The CDC warns against eating romaine lettuce after an E. coli outbreak that has made dozens sick across 13 states.

PHOENIX - An E. coli outbreak that could be linked to lettuce in the U.S. has killed one person and put several in the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC said Thursday that it is investigating 17 E. coli cases in 13 states reported from Nov. 15-Dec. 8, 2017; of those, five people were hospitalized, two were diagnosed with kidney failure and one has died. The CDC said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the state health departments where the cases were reported were also investigating.

U.S. health officials believe romaine lettuce could be the biggest culprit because the vegetable was behind a similar outbreak in Canada.

According to the Arizona Department of Agriculture Leafy Green Marketing Agreement Administrator Teressa Lopez, the state is the second-largest supplier of romaine lettuce in the U.S. behind only California.

Grocery chain Bashas' spokesperson Ashley Shick said none of the store’s romaine suppliers, which are from Yuma and California, were connected to the CDC’s ongoing investigation.

Bashas’ emailed the following statement to 12 News:

"At Bashas' Family of Stores, food safety is our No. 1 priority. While there haven't been any cases reported in Arizona, we are actively monitoring the situation and will continue to do so. We are communicating with our suppliers to ensure quality and safety, as we are fully committed to the well-being of our shoppers and their families."

Safeway spokesperson Nancy Keane told 12 News in an email, “at this time we are referring media to the CDC or USDA for additional information.”

CDC spokesperson Brittany Behm replied with the following email:

"Thanks for reaching out about this investigation. CDC, several states, and FDA are investigating an outbreak in the United States. Five people have been hospitalized, including one who died. Two people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure.

"CDC is still collecting information to determine whether there is a food item in common among sick people, including leafy greens and romaine. More here.

"During a foodborne outbreak investigation, officials collect three types of data: epidemiologic, traceback, and food and environmental testing. Health officials assess all of these data to try to find the likely source of the outbreak. There is not enough epidemiologic or traceback evidence at this time to indicate a specific source of illnesses in the United States. More info about that process.

"People usually get sick from E. coli O157:H7 three to four days after eating food contaminated with the germ. Most people develop diarrhea (often bloody) and stomach cramps. Anyone who is concerned that they have an E. coli infection should talk to their healthcare provider. More information about E. coli can be found here.

There have not been any cases from Arizona at this point."

Consumer Reports pressured the CDC and FDA to do more to protect shoppers, but the produce was still on U.S. grocery store shelves Thursday.

Sprouts Farmers Market had not replied to an email or call from 12 News by Thursday night on the E. Coli outbreak and investigation

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