UPDATE— A common grower with multiple romaine fields in California’s Salinas growing region is likely responsible for all three current  E. coli O157: H7 outbreaks.   That was the word in a late Thursday update from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and California state government are deploying a team to conduct a new investigation of the yet un-named grower to nail down the source of the contamination.  Earlier the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Department of Public Health, CDC, and FDA sent investigative teams to three farms in the Salinas area that were identified in the traceback investigation.

An Iowa woman has sued Batavia, IL-based ALDI INC, the manufacturer, distributor and seller of an Asian Chopped Salad that made her very sick.

Johnston, IA resident Cindy Day is one of more than 100 people in 23 states, and Canada infected with an outbreak strain of E. coli O157: H7 from eating romaine lettuce grown in California’s Salinas growing region.

Day purchased an Asian Chopped Salad containing romaine lettuce from an Aldi located at 8400 Douglas Ave. in Urbandale, IA, on November 2. She began experiencing symptoms of E. coli on November 7, including diarrhea and vomiting. Day south medical care at a local clinic on November 9 and was treated with anti-nausea medication. She also tested positive for E. coli O157: H7 and was informed by the Polk County Health Department that the strain was a genetic match to the outbreak strain.

Marler Clark, the food safety law firm and Wandro and Associates of Des Moines represent Day in the federal court action. “We are filing lawsuits, not only to seek compensation for our clients but to help determine the source of the contamination that has sickened so many,” said Marler Clark managing partner, Bill Marler. “Through the litigation process, we will show how this contamination occurred and who was involved. It is only when all this information is gathered and transparently shared that we can learn how to prevent the next E. coli O157: H7 outbreak.”

Consumers should not eat, and restaurants and retailers should not sell or serve romaine lettuce from either the Salinas growing region or from unknown locations. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 102 people in 23 states were infected with the outbreak strain as of Dec.2, 2019.

There have been over 50 hospitalizations, with at least 10 with acute kidney failure. Illnesses started on dates ranging from September 24 to November 18.

The Public Health Agency of Canada also reports two illnesses related to the U.S. outbreak. Based on available traceback data, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked the industry to voluntarily remove romaine lettuce grown in Salinas, California, from the market and is requesting that the industry withhold distribution of romaine for the remainder of the Salinas growing season.

In addition to the current persistent outbreak, the complaint filed against Aldi includes a log showing 19 E. coli O157: H7 outbreaks that have occurred during the last decade involving romaine, leafy greens, spinach, and mixed blends.

Contaminated greens have infected 839 people with the dangerous E. coli O157: H7 bacteria over the decade. About 10 percent of those infections turn into hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS. It is a severe and potentially life-threatening complication, mostly impacting children.

“The essence of the syndrome is described by its three central features– destruction of red blood cells, destruction of platelets (those blood cells responsible for clotting), and acute renal failure due to the formation of micro-thrombi that occlude microscopic blood vessels that make up the filtering units within the kidneys,” the federal complaint explains.

There’s no way to halt the progression of HUS.

ALDI, which has not yet responded to the Day lawsuit, is charged in the civil complaint with negligence for manufacturing and distributing romaine containing a deadly pathogen.

The Plaintiffs also claim ALDI breached duties owed to the ultimate consumers of its salad products.

ALDI has been in the grocery retailing business since 1976.   It operates more than 1,900 U.S. stores in 36 states with more than 40 million customers each month.  ALDI sells frequently purchased grocery and household items, including fresh produce


Editor’s Note: Marler is also the publisher of Food Safety News.

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