One dead in E. coli outbreak — lettuce still may not be safe
Nationwide concern continues about the E. coli outbreak, which has resulted in 121 people getting sick in 25 states — and one death.
As of May 1, there had been seven reported cases of E. coli in New Jersey tied to the outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said that over five days last week there were 23 more reported illnesses in 10 states, in addition to the single death, in California.
The most recent numbers from the CDC also noted that illnesses have been reported in three more states, in Kentucky, Massachusetts and Utah.
The outbreak has been attributed to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona, according to the CDC. While people can eat some romaine lettuce safely, the Food and Drug Administration recommends customers take certain steps to ensure they are not eating potentially contaminated food.
"The FDA recommends that consumers ask grocers, restaurants and other food service establishments where their romaine lettuce originated, and avoid any romaine lettuce, whether chopped, whole head or hearts, that originated from the Yuma growing region," the FDA said in a statement. "If you cannot confirm the source of the romaine lettuce, do not buy it or eat it. If you have already purchased romaine lettuce or products containing romaine lettuce and cannot confirm the source, throw them away."
California had seen the most cases of E. coli as of May 1, with 24 reported. That's followed closely by Pennsylvania with 20, and Idaho with 11. The number of cases reported in New Jersey has stayed at seven for several weeks.
In addition to affecting individual customers, the outbreak has also affected large chains like Panera. In an email to customers, CEO Blaine Hurst addressed some steps the company has taken to ensure food safety since the outbreak started.
"While we do everything we can to ensure the safety of the food we serve, when something happens, like the recent industry-wide issues affecting romaine lettuce harvested in Yuma, Arizona, we act quickly to remove the risk from our cafes," Hurst said.
Panera is now using romaine only from Salinas, California, Hurst said.