E. coli Concern Prompts US Grower to Recall Lettuce

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E. Coli Lettuce Recall

A grower in the western U.S. state of California has recalled recent shipments of lettuce because of concern the produce might have been contaminated by E. Coli bacteria.

The Nunes Company of Salinas said Sunday tests had revealed the presence of E. Coli in irrigation water, but as far as the company knew, no consumers had been sickened.

The recalled lettuce had been shipped to seven western states.

Last month in the United States, fresh spinach was taken out of markets after three people were killed and nearly 200 sickened by E. Coli carried by the spinach.

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Most healthy adults recover from E. Coli exposure within a week, but the bacterium causes diarrhea and can cause kidney failure, particularly among children and older people.

E. Coli Facts from CDC

Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a leading cause of foodborne illness. Based on a 1999 estimate, 73,000 cases of infection and 61 deaths occur in the United States each year. In the ten CDC Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) sites (which represent 15% of the US population), there was a 29% decline in E. coli O157:H7 infection since 1996-98.

Infection with E. coli often leads to bloody diarrhea, and occasionally to kidney failure. People can become infected with E.coli O157:H7 in a variety of ways. Though most illness has been associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef, people have also become ill from eating contaminated bean sprouts or fresh leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach. Person-to-person contact in families and child care centers is also a known mode of transmission. In addition, infection can occur after drinking raw milk and after swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water.

Consumers can prevent E. coli O157:H7 infection by thoroughly cooking ground beef, avoiding unpasteurized milk, and by washing hands carefully before preparing or eating food. Fruits and vegetables should be washed well, but washing may not remove all contamination. Public service announcements on television, radio, or in the newspapers will advise you which foods to avoid in the event of an outbreak.

Because the organism lives in the intestines of healthy cattle, preventive measures on cattle farms, during meat processing, and during the growth, harvest and processing of produce are being investigated.