The nationwide food poisoning outbreak of E. coli-laden romaine lettuce has spread to 29 states and has left 149 people ill, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.
That's an increase of 28 people and four states – Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas – since the most recent CDC update on May 2. The number of people suffering from this outbreak has risen steadily since the federal authorities began investigations a month ago, when 205 people fell ill and five of them died.
This strain of E. coli produces a toxin that causes vomiting and diarrhea and possibly other severe symptoms, including kidney failure in some cases. Of 129 people, 64 or 50 percent, were hospitalized, including 1
California leads the nation with 30 cases, followed by Pennsylvania with 20 and Idaho with 11.
The outbreak has proven to be a more complicated case for federal researchers. They identified a farm in Yuma, Arizona, as a full-grown lettuce in connection with food poisoning in an Alaskan prison, but they do not know where that lettuce got contaminated. The remainder are chopped lettuce, which is not from Yuma Farm, according to the US Food & Drug Administration. Many of the people living all over the country ate chopped lettuce sold in bags at restaurants. The bacteria could have contaminated the salad at any point in the production process.
"We are still trying to identify the source, not just the source of the contamination, but also how the contamination actually happened," Stephen Ostroff, deputy food and veterinary officer at the FDA, told The Washington Post.
The CDC continues to urge consumers to avoid, eat or buy any kind of romaine lettuce from the Yuma region. During the winter months to early April, the overwhelming majority of US-harvested leafy lettuce and other leafy vegetables are grown in the Yuma region before moving to California's Central Valley and Salinas Valley. California lettuce is not involved in the outbreak.
Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post contributed to this report.