Officials from two regional grocery chains in Wisconsin and a state university in Connecticut are distancing their operations from a nationwide E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce.
Federal officials have traced the ongoing E. coli O157:H7 outbreak to romaine from the Yuma, AZ, area. The outbreak has sickened at least 53 people in 16 states, with 31 people having been hospitalized. Five of the victims have developed kidney failure.
Fox Piggly Wiggly, Roundy’s grocery stores
This weekend, as federal officials were expanding warnings against romaine lettuce to include whole heads and hearts in addition to chopped romaine, officials with two grocery chains in the Milwaukee, WI, area were telling local media their customers could rest easy.
Representatives of Roundy’s Supermarkets and Fox Brothers Piggly Wiggly told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper that the romaine lettuce in their stores was not from the Yuma, AZ, growing region. As of Friday, only romaine from the Yuma area has been named by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in connection to the ongoing outbreak.
“Roundy’s is not affected by this outbreak,” chain vice president for investor relations James Hyland told the Journal Sentinel.
“Our bulk romaine lettuce and hearts sold at green racks are supplied from growers in California. Our packaged chopped lettuce for Fresh Express and Organic Girl are also not supplied from the Yuma region, and our mixed salads from the salad bar and service deli are not affected.”
Similarly, Pat Fox, president of Fox Piggly Wiggly, told the newspaper he had been assured the romaine in her stores was not from Yuma. “Our supplier, Piggly Wiggly Midwest, has told us that the product they source is not from Yuma,” according to the report from the Journal Sentinel.
Until late March, almost all of the romaine being harvested in the United States was coming from the Yuma area, according to fresh produce industry groups as well as the FDA and CDC. The harvest has mostly moved to California, but some romaine is still being shipped from the Yuma area.
Western Connecticut State University
Although a specific illness has not been named, Western Connecticut State University is closed today because of an outbreak of gastrointestinal illnesses that had hit about 100 of the school’s 5,600 students as of Sunday. The WCSU public relations director told local media romaine lettuce could not be the cause.
Paul Steinmetz told WFSB-TV Channel 3 that university officials are “confident it is not E. Coli because we haven’t been serving romaine lettuce in the cafeteria for at least a week and there are no other local cases of e-coli.”
John B. Clark, president of the university in Danbury, CT, posted an update Sunday after 10 p.m., saying the school is working with the Connecticut Department of Health, the Danbury Department of Health, and Danbury Hospital on the outbreak investigation and containment. On Thursday about 40 students had reported illnesses. By Sunday that number had increased to 100.
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