The 25 state-wide outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, AZ continues, and as of yesterday, it has claimed its first life. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control & Prevention, a death caused by E. coli-contaminated romaine was reported from California on May 2.
So far, it is the only death connected to the outbreak, however 121 people have been been infected with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli 0157:H7, which is the most severe type of the food-borne illness. Most other strains of E. coli are not usually life-threatening for healthy adults. This strain, however, can cause hemorrhagic diarrhea and lead to organ failure. As of today, a total of 52 people have been hospitalized after eating contaminated romaine, some with kidney failure.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has confirmed that romaine lettuce is no longer being produced or distributed from Yuma, AZ. While this does reduce the possibility of exposure, it doesn't mean that Yuma-grown romaine is completely out of the supply chain. Still, for now, kale and spinach lovers can breathe easy. Yesterday, the FDA wrote in an update on its website that, to date, "there is no evidence that other types of lettuce, or romaine lettuce grown outside of the Yuma growing region, are involved in this outbreak."
The CDC is still warning consumers not to eat or buy any romaine, unless you can confirm that the lettuce was not from Yuma. Since food labels often do not identify the region where produce was grown, this can be tricky, and it may be most advantageous to completely avoid romaine for the time being.