Don't eat the lettuce: E. Coli outbreak expands to 16 states

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At least 53 people have been sickened by tainted, chopped romaine lettuce in an expanding E. coli outbreak that now spans 16 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

"This warning now includes whole heads and hearts of romaine lettuce, in addition to chopped romaine and salads and salad mixes containing romaine", the CDC posted online Friday. If you can not confirm the source of the romaine lettuce, do not buy it or eat it. Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.

Although the warning is limited to greens grown in the Southwest corner of Arizona, officials note product labels often do not identify growing regions, and whole heads of lettuce offer little to no information about the vegetable's origin. "If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away", the CDC said. No common grower, supplier, distributor or brand from the Yuma area has been identified. If you can not confirm the source of the romaine lettuce, do not buy it or eat it. Consumers should avoid any pre-cut romaine lettuce from the Yuma area.

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The outbreak has also affected Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Washington.

More cases of E. Coli infection may be reported in the coming weeks, since some people may not immediately report the illness. Restaurants and retailers should ask their suppliers about the source of their chopped romaine lettuce. This should be done even if people have eaten some of the lettuce without becoming ill. Symptoms may be mild to severe, including diarrhea which may be bloody. Thirty-one of those have been hospitalized, the CDC said, and although no one has died, five people have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. In regards to the lettuce recall, it included a link to the CDC page regarding the latest outbreak.

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