Romaine lettuce supplier in Alaska pulls product amid E. coli concerns
In light of recent concerns over E Coli in romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona, area, the commissaries’ only supplier with romaine lettuce from the area has voluntarily pulled its product.
After Alaska food safety officials announced an outbreak of gastroenteritis linked to a correctional facility in Nome, a supplier of romaine lettuce to commissaries in Alaska voluntarily pulled their product in an abundance of caution, said Chris Wicker, a public health advisor for Defense Commissary Agency headquarters at Fort Lee, Virginia.
“We are asking patrons of our stores in Alaska not to consume any romaine lettuce they’ve purchased,” he added. “They should return these products to the commissary for a full refund.”
The Centers for Disease Control further advised consumers not to eat any romaine lettuce that came from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region, according to an alert it posted to its website April 20.
This alert follows a Department of Defense All Food and Drug Activity message dated April 16 that announced Church Brothers’ Class 1 recall of its Cross Valley Farms chopped romaine lettuce because of potential E. coli O157:H7 contamination.
Upon receiving the ALFOODACT April 17, DeCA contacted its produce suppliers, and all but one responded that the recall didn’t affect their products because none of it came from the Yuma, Arizona, area, Wicker said. The one distributor that did have product from the Yuma area stated it was shipped to commissaries in Alaska. That distributor subsequently pulled it voluntarily.
As of April 20, the CDC and FDA have reported 53 confirmed cases of E. coli infections in 16 states with 31 people being hospitalized; five have developed kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5 and older adults. Symptoms of HUS may include fever, abdominal pain, pale skin tone, fatigue, unexplained bruises or bleeding from the nose and mouth, decreased urination, and swelling. The condition can lead to serious kidney failure and even death.
Food contaminated with E coli may not look or smell spoiled, but can still make you sick.
Infection with E. coli can result in dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps two to eight days (three to four days, on average) after exposure to the organism. While most people recover within a week, some can develop HUS.
The CDC recommends the following to consumers when it comes to romaine lettuce:
- Do not buy or eat romaine lettuce at a grocery store or restaurant unless you can confirm it is not romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region.
- Unless the source of the product is known, consumers anywhere in the United States who have any store-bought romaine lettuce at home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you don’t know if the lettuce is romaine, don’t eat it; throw it away.
- Product labels often do not identify growing regions, so throw out any romaine lettuce if you’re uncertain about where it was grown.
- Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine lettuce was stored. Ensure you thoroughly clean your refrigerator.
If anyone suspects they have been affected by E. coli, the CDC recommends the following steps:
- Take action if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection: Talk to your healthcare provider.
- Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.
- Report your illness to the health department.
- Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.
Follow these general ways to prevent E. coli infection:
- Wash your hands. Wash hands after using the restroom or changing diapers, before and after preparing or eating food, and after contact with animals.
- Don’t prepare food or drink for others when you are sick.
- Cook meats thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Cook steaks and roasts to a temperature of at least 145 F and let rest for 3 minutes after you remove the meat from the grill or stove. Cook ground beef and pork to at least 160 F. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.
- Don’t cross-contaminate food preparation areas. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils after they touch raw meat.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before eating, unless the package says the contents have been washed.
- Avoid raw milk, other unpasteurized dairy products and unpasteurized juices.