While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautioned people last week to only purchase and consume romaine lettuce labeled as being from noncontaminated areas, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food spokesman Jack Wilbur said consumers in Utah can now be "fairly confident" that all lettuce they purchase is safe from the recent E. coli outbreak. The agency also reported Thursday that nine additional people have been reported ill since November 26.
New Jersey and California have the most cases, each having reported 11 people sickened in the outbreak that began as early as October 5, the CDC says.
Illnesses have been reported in 15 states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Nineteen people have been hospitalized, including two who suffered from kidney failure. No deaths have been reported. "To date, E. coli O157:H7 has not been found in any of the lettuce, soil or scat samples. Results of water testing being conducted by CDC are pending", the FDA said. If your romaine does not have this information, you should not eat it, the agency says.
The public health agency says that some romaine lettuce is now being labeled with a harvest location, and consumers should check for those labels to confirm the vegetable was not harvested in the central coastal growing regions of northern and central California.
Symptoms of an E. coli infection, which usually begin about three or four days after consuming the bacteria, can include watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, according to the CDC.
Another E. coli outbreak also affecting romaine lettuce in the spring killed five people and made more than 200 sick in 36 states.