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Schnucks Romaine Lettuce E. coli Outbreak

At least 60 people fell ill with confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to romaine lettuce found in the salad bars of multiple Schnucks supermarket locations in October of 2011.

Though primarily centered in the greater St. Louis-area, the outbreak has affected people in the following 10 states: Arizona (1), Arkansas (2), Georgia (1), Illinois (9), Indiana (2), Kansas (3), Kentucky (1), Minnesota (3), Missouri (37), and Nebraska (1). In addition to Schnucks, illnesses have been linked to universities in both Missouri and Minnesota.

The early suspected source of the E. coli outbreak was fresh produce served at Schnucks stores in the St. Louis area, but all tests on food samples from Schnucks salad bars returned negative for E. coli contamination. Interviews with E. coli patients did not point to a specific food served at Schnucks that was the source of the outbreak.

However, on December 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report pointing to romaine lettuce from a single producer and distributor as the source of the outbreak. Investigators believe the contamination occurred prior to lettuce entering the Schnucks stores. The report does not name the producer or distributor.

The unnamed producer also sold romaine lettuce to both the University of Minnesota and University of Missouri, where a total of three students were confirmed ill.

According to the CDC at least 30 people have been hospitalized and two have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Symptoms of E. coli infection include bloody diarrhea and painful stomach cramps. In about 10 percent of cases, E. coli infection leads to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication that can cause kidney failure.

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