The latest E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce isn't quite over yet, but health officials think they've found the source of contamination. The O157H:7 strain was reportedly found in a sample taken from an agricultural reservoir used to irrigate crops at Adams Bros. Farm in Santa Maria, California, during an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration alongside state authorities.
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In the time since our last update on the outbreak, 16 additional people have fallen ill after eating romaine grown in several counties in California's Central Coast. This brings the total of reported cases up to 59 in 15 states. Twenty-three people have been hospitalized; fortunately, no deaths have been reported.
Health officials will continue to investigate how E. coli ended up in the water at this farm, but they will continue to take samples from other locations to make sure there are no additional points of contamination.
"As of December 13, our investigation yielded records from five restaurants in four different states that have identified 11 different distributors, nine different growers, and eight different farms as potential sources of contaminated romaine lettuce," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
"Currently, no single establishment is in common across the investigated supply chains," he continued. "This indicates that although we have identified a positive sample from one farm to date, the outbreak may not be explained by a single farm, grower, harvester, or distributor."
Until the case is closed, consumers are urged to avoid eating all forms of romaine lettuce grown in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Barbara counties. If you come across romaine lettuce that's not labeled with a growing region and county, the CDC warns not to buy, serve, sell or eat it.
Exposure to E. coli can lead to intestinal issues or hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal kind of kidney failure. Better safe than sorry! Don't fall victim to the consequences of one of the biggest food recalls of 2018.