E. coli linked to iceberg lettuce

09/29/2008 12:00:00 AM
David Mitchell

(Sept. 29, 10:30 a.m.) Public health officials have linked a multi-state outbreak of E. coli to bagged lettuce from Detroit-based processor Aunt Mid’s Produce Co.

The Michigan Department of Community Health said Sept. 26 that 26 cases in that state have been linked to bagged, industrial-sized packages of iceberg lettuce sold to other wholesalers, restaurants and institutional accounts. Ten people have been hospitalized there; the first cases were reported Sept. 8.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Public Health said Sept. 28 that six people in that state have been diagnosed with the same strain of E. coli. Cases occurred from late August to mid-September.

It was unclear how many illnesses have been tied to tainted lettuce. In Michigan, cases included 7 Michigan State University students, five county jail inmates and three University of Michigan students.

A spokesman at the Ohio Department of Health said one resident became ill while traveling in Illinois.

A spokesman for Aunt Mid’s could not immediately be reached for comment. The company said on its Web site that it had suspended processing and sales of its iceberg lettuce line.

“Aunt Mid’s is cooperating fully with the state’s efforts to actually identify the source of contamination and has already voluntarily initiated testing procedures by an independent laboratory of its processing facility and processing methods,” the company said in a statement. “The initial test results have indicated no contamination, and Aunt Mid’s is conducting ongoing testing to confirm those initial results.”

The Michigan Department of Community Health said in its release that other distributors could be identified during its investigation.

A spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sept. 29 that the agency has not taken a lead role in the outbreak investigation, and the state departments of health in Michigan and Illinois are handling the situation. Lola Russell said the CDC typically takes an active role if states ask for the agency’s help or if the size and scope of an outbreak dictate it.



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