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Salad is safe again: FDA declares harvest is over for the E. coli-infected romaine lettuce crop

It is safe to eat romaine lettuce again, the FDA announced on Wednesday. 

Harvest season for romaine is over in Yuma, Arizona, to where the the agency traced the recent outbreak of E. coli that sickened 172 people, killing one over the last couple of months. 

The strain of E. coli involved produces the Shiga-toxin, a powerful chemical listed as a potential bioterrorism agent by the Department of Homeland Security, and ingesting it led to kidney failure for more than a dozen Americans.

With the grow season over in the region, however, the FDA said that it is unlikely that any contaminated lettuce would still be available in stores or restaurants. 

Harvest season for romaine is over for the area of Arizona where the E. coli outbreak that sickened 157 people and killed one originated is over, so the lettuce is likely safe again

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that romaine has only a 21-day shelf life, and, since the last of it was harvested on April 16, we should be safe from bad salad.   

Twenty-three more people fell ill since the last update on May 9, bringing the total to 172 people from 32 states, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday. 

Three more states – Iowa, Nebraska, and Oregon – have also reported cases, the CDC said. 

This outbreak has been particularly dangerous due to Shiga-toxins, which can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting and in the most severe cases, kidney failure.  

The toxin binds to white blood cells, riding to them to the kidneys where it breaks into the heart of cells. 

Cell death triggers the body to send red blood cells to the kidneys, causing clots and kidney failure. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the outbreak-related death of one person in California on May 2. 

Nearly half of those that contracted E. coli infections since the outbreak began in March had to be hospitalized.

Women have accounted for 65 percent of the infections reported so far. 

Although E. coli is typically to primarily pose a danger to elderly people and very young children, the median age of those affected in this outbreak is 29.

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the contamination to the Yuma region of Arizona, where about 90 percent of winter leafy greens are grown. 

So far, the FDA has identified one grower, Harrison Farms, involved in the outbreak.  

But that lettuce from farm was a bit of anomaly, accounting for only the handful of illnesses reported in an Alaska prison. 

Aside from Harrison, the FDA says that many farms could be involved, though they do not yet have a number and are still investigating.  


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