The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is working with local health departments, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and consumer Protection (DATCP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to romaine lettuce(link is external). As of December 4, 2019, the CDC reports that 102 people in 23 states are infected with the outbreak strain of STEC. There have been 58 people hospitalized and 10 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

As of December 9, 2019, Wisconsin has 33 confirmed cases linked to this outbreak. Of these, 14 people have been hospitalized and 2 have developed HUS. This includes two new cases that were identified since the last CDC web update.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence collected so far shows that romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California, growing region is a likely source of this outbreak. On November 21, 2019, a list of salad products were recalled after laboratory testing found the same strain of E. coli that was making people sick in Maryland in romaine lettuce harvested from the Salinas, California growing region.

On December 6, 2019, Wisconsin health officials found E. coli O157 in an unopened bag of chopped Fresh Express® brand Leafy Green Romaine salad from Salinas, California that was collected from an ill person’s home. On December 13, 2019, specialized laboratory testing called whole genome sequencing showed that the E. coli O157 strain found in the romaine matches the outbreak strain of E. coli that has made people in Wisconsin and other states sick.

While E. coli O157 was found in a bag of chopped Fresh Express® brand romaine, not all ill people in Wisconsin included in this outbreak report eating Fresh Express® brand romaine. No single brand, product, or type of romaine lettuce 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.

Wisconsin DHS, the CDC, and FDA are advising people not to eat, sell, or serve any romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California, until more information is available.

In 2006, 49 of 205 where sickened in Wisconsin by E. coli – tainted spinach from Salinas, California.

On September 14, 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that a nationwide E. coli outbreak had been associated with the consumption of bagged baby spinach. For fear of E. coli contamination, all bagged spinach was recalled nationwide, and on September 19, 2006, the FDA announced that all spinach implicated in the outbreak had been traced back to Natural Selection Foods, a company located in California’s Salinas Valley.

FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 205 E. coli illnesses associated with the spinach E. coli outbreak, including thirty-one cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, 104 hospitalizations, and four deaths.

Victims of the E. coli outbreak were identified in 26 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Wisconsin was the state hardest hit in the outbreak, with 49 confirmed cases of E. coli. Canada reported one confirmed case.

A joint trace-back by FDA and the State of California revealed that four spinach fields were the possible source of the E. coli contamination. The outbreak strain of E. coli was isolated from cattle fields nearby the implicated spinach fields, as well as from a wild boar that was killed in one of the fields.

On March 23, 2007, The California Department of Health Services and the United States Food and Drug Administration released its report, “Investigation of an Escherichia coli O157:H7 Outbreak Associated with Dole Pre-Packaged Spinach (redacted).” (PDF) and, “Recommendations in follow up to the Investigation of an Escherichia coli O157:H7 Outbreak Associated with Dole PrePackaged Spinach.” (PDF) The report and recommendations follow the 2006 E. coli outbreak that was traced to pre-packaged Dole spinach that was produced in California’s Salinas Valley and sold nationwide.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $700 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our E. coli lawyers have litigated E. coli and HUS cases stemming from outbreaks traced to ground beef, raw milk, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and other food products.  The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John’s.  We have proudly represented such victims as Brianne Kiner, Stephanie Smith and Linda Rivera.

If you or a family member became ill with an E. coli infection or HUS after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark E. coli attorneys for a free case evaluation.