Coli update: You can now safely eat romaine again

Sodexo reassures Univ. that its romaine lettuce is unaffected by E. coli outbreak

It's unlikely that anyone now has edible romaine lettuce that's contaminated with the toxic strain of E. coli bacteria that's been sickening people nationwide since March.

In April, the CDC warned Americans to toss out any romaine lettuce they might have bought in stores. But because it takes 2 to 3 weeks from when a person gets sick with E. coli and when the case is reported to the CDC, the number of cases may still increase, reflecting cases that occurred when the tainted romaine was still available.

Federal health officials have not been able to narrow the source of the E. coli contamination beyond stating that it is from romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region. But the last shipment of romaine from Yuma left on April 16 and the growing season there is over.

The 172 reported illnesses, which resulted in one death and 75 hosptializations, have been traced to lettuce harvested in April in the winter lettuce region around Yuma, Ariz., according to the CDC. Of the 157 cases reported with good information, 75 (48 percent) have resulted in hospitalization, and 20 people have developed a unsafe form of kidney failure.

Unless you know where the lettuce came from, consumers anywhere in the US who have any store-bought romaine lettuce at home should not eat it and should throw it away.

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That means that the agency is no longer advising consumers to avoid buying romaine lettuce in connection with the outbreak.

While most strains of the bacteria E. coli are harmless, others can cause serious illness.

The CDC said three more states - Iowa, Nebraska and OR - have been hit by the outbreak, bringing the total number of affected states to 32.

But an agriculture expert working for the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture said technology may offer solutions that may deter similar outbreaks from happening.

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