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Elliot Olsen has more than 20 years’ experience representing people harmed by E. coli, and he has regained millions of dollars in compensation. If you or a family member has become sick after eating E. coli-tainted romaine lettuce, please call 612-337-6126, or complete the following:

UPDATE, JAN. 11
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said seven new E. coli infections have been identified, with the likely culprit being contaminated “leafy greens.” The CDC previously had said the E. coli strain involved in the outbreak was a genetic near-match with the strain that made people sick in Canada, where officials pinpointed romaine lettuce as the cause. All 66 cases in the two countries occurred between mid-November and mid-December. Maryland and New Jersey were added to the list of U.S. states reporting infections, pushing the total to 15 states affected.

ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 6
Consumer Reports is advising consumers in the United States to forego eating romaine lettuce until the cause of an E. coli outbreak is identified.

The nonprofit consumer organization reported Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the E. coli strain detected in the U.S. is a virtual genetic match with the strain that caused illnesses in Canada. Canadian health officials traced the source of the E. coli to contaminated romaine lettuce.

E. coli-tainted romaine lettuceThe strain of E. coli (0157:H7) found in both countries produces a toxin that can lead to serious illness, kidney failure, even death. The outbreaks have sickened nearly 60 and caused two deaths, one each in the U.S. and Canada.

“Even though we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is almost always consumed raw,” said James Rogers, Ph.D., director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports.

Washing romaine lettuce no guarantee

According to Rogers, if romaine lettuce is contaminated with E. coli, washing it won’t remove all bacteria. In addition, it doesn’t take much bacteria to make a person sick. “It is very difficult to remove bacteria from leafy greens,” Rogers said. “Bacteria have the ability to adhere to the surface of the leaves, and to get stuck in microscopic crevices.”

What is E. coli?

E. coli (Escherichia coli) is a bacteria normally found in the intestines of mammals. Most varieties of E. coli are harmless, but a few particularly nasty strains – such as O157:H7 – can cause severe symptoms, such as:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • severe abdominal cramping
  • diarrhea, which can be bloody
  • fever and fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • decreased urination.

Anyone can get sick from food contaminated with E. coli, but young children, senior citizens, and people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of complications.

HUS a serious complication

As much as 10 percent of those infected with E. coli develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can be life-threatening. The overwhelming majority of HUS cases involve children under the age of 5.

HUS typically develops after a long bout with E. coli-produced diarrhea. The disease damages red blood cells, which can clog the kidney’s filtering, thus resulting in kidney failure. In severe cases, a kidney transplant might be necessary to avoid death.