December 20, 2019

Romaine E. coli update: 138 confirmed cases, investigation ongoing

On Dec. 19, the CDC and FDA released updates regarding the E. coli O157:H7 investigation linked to romaine lettuce grown in Salinas, California.

While an earlier update from FDA mentioned that the supply-source origin traceback of some of the outbreak cases converged to a common grower in the Salinas Valley region, no additional information was provided in this update. The FDA, CDC and California state agency partners are continuing to investigate several ranches used by the grower for production.

In California, farms are widely referred to as ranches dating back to the historical land grants given by Spanish or Mexican governors at the time. To answer some common questions, the term does not necessarily mean there are cattle, a dairy or other domesticated animal production on the land or within the same operation. The broader investigation continues as no source of contamination has been determined for the diversity of illnesses which have been linked by Whole Genome Sequencing.

Outbreak Details

  • 138 illnesses confirmed
  • 25 states reporting illness
  • 72 hospitalizations
  • 13 cases have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • No deaths have been reported

Summary of Updated Information

  • Since the last update on Dec. 4, an additional 36 ill individuals have been added to the CDC timeline of reported cases which reflects the delays in states reporting of illness to the national system as well as new cases after the initial advisory on Nov. 21, 2019.
  • Included in the revised reported cases, an additional person was identified with an onset date of Dec. 1, 2019.
  • Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence all indicate that romaine lettuce from the Salinas Valley region in California is the likely and sole source of contaminated product resulting in the multistate outbreak.
  • The CDC continues their advisory to consumers to refrain from eating romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas region. They have also advised foodservice, restaurateurs and retailers not to serve or sell any romaine product from the region.

PMA is working closely with stakeholders and monitoring this investigation and will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available.