Romaine lettuce recalled after linked to E.coli cluster of illnesses in Michigan

As of November 9, 2020, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is advising consumers to not consume Tanimura & Antle brand romaine lettuce. When this lettuce was randomly tested from a Walmart in Comstock Park, MI, the sample showed that it had been contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services laboratory continued to test this product and confirmed that it was positive for a strain of E. coli genetically similar to E. coli causing two recent illnesses in Michigan.

The FDA reports that a total of 3,396 cartons of potentially affected product were distributed in the United States to the following states: AK, OR, CA, TX, AR, OK, IN, NE, MO, TN, WI, NM, SC, WA, NC, OH, VA, MA, PR, and IL. The single head lettuce was sold by Tanimura & Antle Inc., in a zip-top clear plastic bag with a blue label and white lettering. It can easily be identified as the contaminated product by the UPC number 0-27918-20314-9 and a white sticker indicating it was packed in Salinas, California on October 15, 2020.

Tanimura & Antle Inc., has voluntarily recalled the lettuce. The FDA and health authorities are urging consumers to discard this product and notify the place of purchase. If you think you or a family member have become ill from consuming any of these products, please seek immediate medical attention.

Another recent investigation into E.coli tainted lettuce.

As of October 28, 2020, the FDA, CDC and local and state health officials are investigating two different E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks that are recurring, emerging, or persistent strains of this pathogen. In order to rule out foods that may be contaminated, the epidemiological and traceback investigation are a coordinated effort between different agencies, with on-site inspections and sampling being conducted to help determine more specific conclusions.

In the first outbreak, a total of 21 people have been infected with E. coli O157:H7 which was reported in eight states. Illnesses began on June 6, 2020, to October 5, 2020. Ill people range in age from 2 to 75 years, with a median age of 24 years. Sixty-seven percent of ill people are female. Of 16 ill people with information available, 8 hospitalizations have been reported, including 1 person who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. One death has been reported from Michigan.

The second outbreak was reported on October 28, 2020, with a total of 23 people ill with E.coli O157:H7. These illnesses have been reported in 12 states. Illnesses started on August 17, 2020, and continued until October 8, 2020. Of those ill, sixty-seven percent were female, with ages ranging from 5 to 81 years. Ten people have been hospitalized, with 2 developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a failure of the kidneys. No deaths have been reported at this time.

Several ill people have been identified as part of an illness cluster at a restaurant. An illness cluster is defined as two or more people from different households who report eating at the same restaurant location, attending a common event, or purchasing food at the same grocery store in the week before becoming ill. Investigating illness clusters can provide critical clues about the source of an outbreak. If several unrelated ill people ate or shopped at the same location of a restaurant or store within several days of each other, it suggests that the contaminated food item was served or sold there.

This outbreak is caused by the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 that caused an outbreak linked to romaine lettuce in 2019. However, food linked to a previous outbreak alone is not enough to prove a link in another outbreak of the same strain. This is because different foods can be contaminated by the same strain of bacteria.

Public health officials are attempting to determine the cause through interviews with those who became ill. In the week before they became sick, several have reported eating a variety of foods, including leafy greens. Of the 13 people interviewed so far, they have all reported eating leafy greens, including iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, mixed bag lettuce and spinach.

Frank Yannis from the FDA said, "We are closely working with our partners at the CDC and the states to pinpoint the sources of the E. coli O157:H7 illness outbreaks and will share information as it becomes available.”
The investigation is on-going at this time.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $700 million for clients in the last 25 years. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our E. coli lawyers have litigated E. coli and HUS cases stemming from outbreaks traced to ground beef, raw milk, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and other food products. The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John’s. We have proudly represented such victims as Brianne Kiner, Stephanie Smith and Linda Rivera.

Managing partner, Bill Marler, began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the historic Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, in her landmark $15.6 million settlement with the company. The 2011 book, Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak that Changed the Way Americans Eat, by best-selling author Jeff Benedict, chronicles the Jack in the Box outbreak and the rise of Bill Marler as a food safety attorney.

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