Right around the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday, Americans across the country were warned about eating romaine lettuce grown in California, which had been potentially contaminated with a dangerous strain of E. coli. In spite of promises from lettuce growers after the last outbreak, officials have reported 102 new cases of E. coli in 23 different states as of December 4th, 2019 – and most of these cases have once again been connected to California-grown romaine lettuce.
The current E. coli outbreak has been sourced back to the Salinas growing region, so the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are advising consumers to avoid eating any romaine lettuce from that area, whether it comes in a whole head or a pre-prepared box. With over 58 hospitalizations so far, this latest E. coli outbreak is spreading rapidly and has already surpassed the 2018 outbreak linked to California romaine lettuce, which ended with only 25 hospitalizations.
How to Recognize the Signs of E. coli Infection
There are many different strains of E. coli bacteria, some of which are relatively harmless to humans. The worst strains – like the O157:H7 variety found in the most recent outbreaks – can cause serious illness, hospitalization, and even death in rare instances.
Here are the most common symptoms of E. coli infection:
- Stomach and lower abdominal cramps
- Mild to moderate fever
- Diarrhea (may be bloody)
- Reduced kidney function
If you are diagnosed with an E. coli infection, you should take notes on what you ate the week before your illness, as this could help you identify the source. Gather and save any receipts, labels, and credit card statements from recent food purchases. You should also immediately report your illness to local public health officials, even if you’re not sure where the contamination occurred. This will increase your odds of identifying the party responsible – and it will help to prevent similar injuries from happening to others.
Maintaining High Standards of Agricultural Responsibility
The produce industry made significant promises to the public after the previous E. coli outbreak, just as they did after the one linked to Arizona-grown lettuce in June of 2018. Produce growers began to label their lettuce with the harvest region, which has made it easier for public health officials to trace the origin of produce-related outbreaks. However, the improved labeling process has still not addressed the underlying problem: A lack of diligence before the contaminated produce hits grocery store shelves.
When agricultural companies fail to consider the safety of consumers, they may be held financially responsible for any illnesses and injuries, particularly when their actions affect hundreds of consumers at once. At Wagner Reese, our attorneys can help you with filing a foodborne illness claim against the right party. With a century of experience taking on complex product liability cases, we’ll provide the compassionate representation you need after an E. coli infection.