E. coli

Go Ahead, You Can Eat That Florida Romaine Lettuce

Nov 28, 2018

Florida-grown romaine lettuce has been cleared in the recent E. coli outbreak, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Tuesday.

“While the federal investigation is ongoing, I’m encouraged that Florida-grown romaine lettuce is not linked to the outbreak and has been cleared to re-enter the marketplace,” Putnam said in a prepared statement.

Late Monday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention narrowed an earlier warning about the outbreak to romaine lettuce harvested in coastal areas of northern and central California.

Investigators who are trying to track down the source of E. coli contamination in romaine lettuce are feeling that they've seen this movie before.

Over the past six weeks, at least 50 people in the U.S. and Canada have gone to the doctor suffering from the symptoms of food poisoning. They were infected with an identical strain of E. coli bacteria. Most of them remembered eating romaine lettuce.

A second E. coli outbreak associated with romaine lettuce has public health officials warning against eating the leafy green vegetable.

The illnesses started appearing in late March. Here and there, across the country, people were checking themselves in to hospitals, sick from toxic E. coli bacteria. At least 200 people got sick. Five of them died.

David Williams and Alex Massie sat side by side at W.P. Franklin Lock along the Caloosahatchee River, waiting for something to nibble at their fishing lines. They were catching fish to eat, despite high levels of fecal bacteria recently closing down a beach just a few yards from their fishing spot. 

Williams, of Alva, said he's been fishing along the Caloosahatchee for 65 years. He's lived off of the river. And he's not concerned about the high levels of E. Coli in the water. 

"It's just a happening thing," Williams said. "There's nothing you can do about it."

Tainted, chopped romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Ariz., is the source of an E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least 53 people in 16 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal health officials say a network they set up last year to identify deadly "nightmare bacteria" is helping control these germs, but the system would be more effective if more hospitals and doctors participated.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focuses on particularly odious germs that live primarily in the gut and cannot be killed with "antibiotics of last resort," called carbapenems.

Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started looking for dangerous bacteria in a few of America's most beloved fresh foods: parsley, cilantro, basil, and prepared guacamole. The very freshness of these foods carries a risk. Since they aren't normally cooked, they may harbor nasty bugs like salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

A germ that can't be treated with an antibiotic that is often used as the last resort has shown up for the first time in the United States.

Government scientists say the case is cause for serious concern but doesn't pose any immediate public health threat.

The germ was discovered in a 49-year-old woman in Pennsylvania with a urinary tract infection. The infection was caused by E. coli bacteria that had a gene that made them resistant to an antibiotic known as colistin.

Florian / Flickr

A Kansas meatpacker has recalled more than 50,000 pounds of ground beef that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. Routine monitoring confirmed the presence of the bacteria late on Wednesday, the Orlando Sentinel reports. There have been no reports of illness so far. Click here for a list of the recalled products.  

After E.coli bacteria were found in a test sample from a well field on Wednesday, the South Broward public water supply was declared unsafe and residents of the area were warned to avoid tap water, or to boil it before use.

Bottled water has long since disappeared from the shelves of stores, as the Sun-Sentinel reports, and warning signs are everywhere at the airport, hospitals and other public places.