Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Press Release

Wisconsin Health Officials Find E. coli O157 in Bagged Romaine Salad from Salinas Valley, California

Consumers should avoid eating any products with romaine lettuce from that region

By - Dec 10th, 2019 04:30 pm

As part of the ongoing investigation into the multistate outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157) infections, Wisconsin health and food safety officials have found E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in an unopened bag of pre-washed chopped romaine collected from an ill person’s home. Additional laboratory testing is pending to determine if the E. coli O157 found in the pre-washed chopped romaine matches the strain causing the multi-state outbreak linked to romaine lettuce.

The E. coli O157 bacteria was found in a bag of chopped Fresh Express® brand Leafy Green Romaine lettuce with a use by date of 11/14/2019 and lot code of Z301 A05B. The source of the romaine identified on the packaging was Salinas Valley, California. While the bacteria was found in a bag of Fresh Express® brand romaine, it is important to note that not all ill persons in Wisconsin that are included in this outbreak have reported consuming Fresh Express® brand salads. At this time, no single product, brand, or variety of salad has been reported by all ill individuals. The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and if additional products are linked to illness.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) advises consumers not to consume any products containing romaine lettuce from Salinas Valley, California, regardless of brand. While some romaine-containing products were recalled on November 21, 2019(link is external), romaine from Salinas Valley is still available on many store shelves. It is important to look at product labels for any mention of Salinas Valley, California, and avoid purchasing these products.

DHS also advises consumers to check their refrigerators for any lettuce mixes containing romaine from the Salinas Valley and throw them away. Produce drawers and refrigerator surfaces should be cleaned thoroughly after throwing out the product(link is external).

As of December 9, 2019, Wisconsin now has 33 cases included in this multistate outbreak. Available epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicate that romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California, growing region is the likely source of this outbreak. Illnesses in Wisconsin residents started on dates ranging from November 7, 2019 – November 19, 2019. Two cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, have been reported and 14 people have been hospitalized. At this time, 97% of ill persons report eating leafy greens in the week before becoming sick; 88% of ill persons report consuming or possibly eating romaine lettuce in the week before they became sick. Food safety and regulatory officials are still working to identify the potential source of contamination and understand how it happened.

DHS urges consumers to continue to avoid the purchase and consumption of romaine from Salinas Valley, California. Specific advice to consumers, restaurants, and retailers can be found on the CDC outbreak website(link is external) or the DHS Outbreak webpage.

People with E. coli O157 usually get sick with bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps 3-4 days after eating food contaminated with the germ. Contact your doctor if you think you ate romaine lettuce from the Salinas region of California and are having any symptoms.

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