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E. coli warning expands to all romaine lettuce

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FILE- A romaine lettuce field near San Luis Ariz

You should avoid all chopped romaine lettuce unless you can confirm that it isn't from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consumers anywhere in the United States who have store-bought romaine at home, including salads and salad mixes containing that lettuce, should throw it away immediately, federal health officials said - even if some had already been eaten with no ill effects.

"Most people reported eating a salad at a restaurant, and romaine lettuce was the only common ingredient identified among the salads eaten", the CDC said in a statement.

At present, a total of 53 people have been confirmed to have gotten E. Coli from chopped romaine lettuce they bought in various grocery stores, with 31 of those individuals requiring hospitalization.

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Based on new information, CDC is expanding its warning to consumers to cover all types of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.

No specific grower, supplier, distributor or brand has been linked to the contaminated lettuce, the CDC said. Food Safety News reports there have been almost 80 E. Coli outbreaks linked to leafy greens since 1995. Symptoms may be mild to severe, including diarrhea which may be bloody. The CDC said, the patients didn't report whole heads or hearts of romaine. But a small number, including the strain in this outbreak, produce a toxin called Shiga that can cause serious illness or death in people. Typically it takes two to three weeks. Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, throw out any romaine lettuce if you're uncertain about where it was grown.

Five more states have reported ill people: Alaska, Arizona, California, Louisiana, and Montana. Pennsylvania has been hit the hardest thus far with 12 reported cases, while Idaho is close behind with 10.

While many retailers and restaurants have pulled product or discontinued using romaine, there may be products with cut romaine in them that have not been pulled from sale or service.

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