Romaine E. coli Lettuce.jpgThe CDC reported today that 58 persons infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 were reported from 9 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: Arizona (1), Arkansas (2), Illinois (9), Indiana (2), Kansas (2), Kentucky (1), Minnesota (2), Missouri (38), and Nebraska (1). Among persons for whom information was available, illnesses began from October 9, 2011 to November 7, 2011. Ill persons ranged in age from 1 to 94 years, with a median age of 28 years. Among the 49 ill persons with available information, 33 (67%) were hospitalized, and 3 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). No deaths were reported.

Ill persons reported purchasing salads from salad bars at grocery Schnucks Grocery Stores between October 5 and October 24, 2011. A total of 9 locations of Schnucks were identified where more than one ill person reported purchasing a salad from the salad bar in the week before becoming ill. This included 2 separate locations where 4 ill persons reported purchasing a salad at each location. For locations where more than one ill person reported purchasing a salad from the salad bar and the date of purchase was known, dates of purchase were all within 4 days of other ill persons purchasing a salad at that same location. Romaine lettuce served on salad bars at all locations of grocery store Schnucks had come from a single lettuce processing facility via Vaughan Foods. Eating romaine lettuce was associated with illness. Ill persons (85%) were significantly more likely than well persons (46%) to report eating romaine lettuce in the week before illness.

The FDA and several state agencies conducted traceback investigations for romaine lettuce to try to identify the source of contamination. Traceback investigations focused on ill persons who had eaten at salad bars at several locations Schnucks and ill persons at university campuses in Minnesota (1 ill person) and Missouri (2 ill persons). Traceback analysis determined that a single common lot of romaine lettuce harvested from “Farm A” was used to supply Schnucks locations as well as the university campus in Minnesota during the time of the illnesses. Traceback from the university campus of Missouri was not conclusive.

We have filed a total of two lawsuits in this outbreak. Along with Schnucks, Moore, Oklahoma-based distributor Vaughan Foods has been added as a defendant all litigation in this outbreak.