Romaine lettuce tainted by fecal bacteria sickens more than 100 people

Romaine lettuce
Romaine lettuce from California’s Salinas Valley has sickened more than 100 people in 23 states.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Tainted romaine lettuce from California’s Salinas Valley has been linked to 102 illnesses in 23 states, health authorities reported Wednesday.

The tally, including a case reported as recently as Nov. 18, more than doubles the magnitude of an ongoing outbreak linked to E. coli bacteria generally found in animals.

Consumers should check whether their lettuce is labeled with a place of origin, and throw it out if it came from the Salinas Valley, the Food and Drug Administration advised. Unlabeled romaine should be discarded as a precaution, the agency said.

No lettuce from other regions or from indoor facilities has been linked to the outbreak, the FDA said. The season in Salinas is winding down, and harvest is moving south to the desert region around Yuma, Ariz., and California’s Imperial Valley.


Salinas Valley romaine was first implicated last month through illnesses traced to salads packed by a New Jersey food company, which voluntarily recalled about 75,233 pounds of salad products, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The outbreak is the second announced by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year. In late October, those agencies belatedly announced that 23 people in 12 states had been sickened by fecal bacteria traced to romaine lettuce between July and early September.

Last year, a series of outbreaks linked to California romaine lettuce sickened more than 250 people.

The culprit in all of those outbreaks was identified as a strain of E. coli known as 0157:H7 that produces a potent toxin that causes symptoms ranging from diarrhea and vomiting to kidney failure. The bacteria is commonly found among stockyard animals such as cows.