Romaine lettuce is unsafe to eat in any form, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday in a food safety alert in response to a new outbreak of illnesses caused by a particularly dangerous type of E. coli bacteria.
The CDC told consumers to throw away any romaine lettuce they may already have purchased. Restaurants should not serve it, stores should not sell it, and people should not buy it, no matter where or when the lettuce was grown. It doesn’t matter if it is chopped, whole head or part of a mix.
The unusually broad warning, issued just two days before Americans sit down for their Thanksgiving dinners, reflects the uncertainties about the origin and extent of the bacterial contamination. The CDC is not claiming that all romaine contains the dangerous bacteria — something the millions of people who have eaten the popular lettuce recently should bear in mind — but investigators don’t know precisely where, when or how the contamination happened.
Thus all romaine is suspect.
The CDC reported that 32 people in 11 states have become sick from eating contaminated romaine. Of those, 13 have been hospitalized, with one patient suffering from a form of kidney failure. The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported that 18 people have been infected with the same strain of E. coli. in Ontario and Quebec.
No deaths have been reported.
“Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick,” the CDC said in the Food Safety Alert issued Tuesday afternoon.
“This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad,” the CDC said. “If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.”
The agency also advised consumers to wash and sanitize drawers and shelves where the lettuce was stored. People usually become sick within three or four days of consuming lettuce contaminated with the E. coli, according to the CDC.
Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said the looming Thanksgiving holiday weighed on the minds of federal officials as they prepared the food alert.
“I think we felt increased pressure to try to communicate earlier and more substantively with the public given that we know people are going to sit down for holiday meals,” Gottlieb said.
But he acknowledged that it is “frustrating and unfortunate” that the alert has to be so broad, covering all romaine lettuce. The federal agencies and the industry are trying to improve traceback techniques to narrow down the sources of outbreaks, he said. “We need to be able to get consumers more precise information about what they shouldn’t be eating, rather than these more general alerts.”
California has the highest number of reported illnesses, with 10, followed by Michigan with seven, New Jersey with three, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York with two each, and the remainder in Connecticut, Maryland, Ohio and Wisconsin.
The Food and Drug Administration issued a statement saying it is making a special effort to test romaine for contamination across the country.
“The quick and aggressive steps we’re taking today are aimed at making sure we get ahead of this emerging outbreak, to reduce risk to consumers, and to help people protect themselves and their families from this foodborne illness outbreak. This is especially important ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, when people will be sitting down for family meals,” Gottlieb said.
Five people died in the most recent major outbreak from contaminated romaine, which lasted from March to June of this year and led to 210 cases in 36 states. That outbreak was traced to the Yuma, Ariz., growing region, but investigators never conclusively determined the precise source. Gottlieb said the leading suspect is contaminated canal water used by multiple farms.
The latest outbreak does not appear to be connected to the Yuma outbreak. Rather, this outbreak involves a strain of E. coli that has the same genetic fingerprint as the one that caused illnesses late last year in both the United States and Canada. Canada linked its cases to romaine lettuce specifically, although the U.S. investigators said only that origin was in leafy greens. Once again, the precise origin was never determined. That outbreak was declared over in January.
The first illness from this outbreak was reported on Oct. 6. There are typically delays in reporting illnesses linked to E. coli outbreaks, and the CDC said cases from early November onward likely have not been logged by health officials.
But it’s striking that this year’s outbreak comes at roughly the same time as the one last year and with a similar fingerprint. The Canadian health agency noted that this “suggests there may be a reoccurring source of contamination.”
“If the 2017 outbreak and this outbreak are a genetic match, that should give the FDA an incredible window where this outbreak, where that lettuce, was grown, so they’re able to triangulate back to a particular area,” said prominent food-safety lawyer Bill Marler.
He said his firm has received many calls from people in the past month saying they’re suffering from E. coli, but they did not know this might be linked to a broad outbreak.
“I’m going to have to hire more lawyers,” Marler said.
E. coli is a bacteria found in the intestines of animals. It can contaminate a wide variety of agricultural products. People can become infected with E. coli and report no symptoms. Those who do get sick from E. coli usually recover without complications in 5 to 10 days. The illness can be spread from person to person through direct contact.
All three outbreaks — the current one, the one from Yuma and the one from last year — are caused by contamination of an E. coli strain known as O157:H7. It produces a Shiga toxin that in severe cases can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
Symptoms of infection from this strain include severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Anyone suspecting they have been infected should see a doctor and have the case reported to a local health department.
Until the 1990s, most E. coli cases in humans came from eating contaminated hamburger. In more recent years, after reforms in the livestock industry, the outbreaks have been most often associated with leafy greens.
The FDA’s Gottlieb said the apparent increase in outbreaks could be misleading. Food is not less safe today than it was in the past, he said:
“It probably seems that there’s more outbreaks. What’s happening is that we’re getting much better at identifying outbreaks.”
9-year-old genius to graduate university
(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.
Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.
Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.
He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.
His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.
“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.
Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.
While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.
But Lydia has her own theory.
“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.
The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.
“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.
“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”
Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.
“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”
Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”
His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.
“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.
“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”
While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.
“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”
Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.
However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.
In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.
Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.
New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne
Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem
Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.
The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.
Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.
🚨WANTED for ASSAULT: on 11/6 at approx 3:43 PM in front of 128 West 112th St in Manhattan, a 32 yr old male was walking with his 8 yr old son when a white BMW jumped the curb & hit the father & son. The driver then got out and slashed the father. Call @NYPDTips with any info. pic.twitter.com/cwd79rcM4c
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) November 15, 2019
Father and son were both knocked through a gate.
The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.
One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.
McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.
McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.
Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.
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