The King County (Wash.) Public Health Department is investigating an E. coli outbreak unrelated to the one believed to have originated in romaine grown in the Salinas, Calif., area.
Health officials believe six of the seven E. coli cases, which have a strain of the pathogen unlike the cases linked to Salinas, could be associated with four Seattle Evergreens restaurants. Although the specific source hasn’t been located, most patients reported eating raw vegetables, including leafy greens.
“This outbreak comes in the context of a national E. coli outbreak associated with romaine lettuce from the Salinas, Calif., growing region, which was announced by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on Nov. 22, 2019,” according to a Nov. 26 news release from the King County health department. “Genetic testing completed on four of the seven cases in this local cluster did not match the genetic fingerprint of the strain currently associated with this national outbreak.”
Genetic testing on those four people suggest a common source, and officials are waiting for results from the other people, according to the release.
The patients ate at the Evergreens restaurants from Nov. 5-11, and illness onset dates are from Nov. 10-15, according to the release.
Health officials are testing products that were served at the restaurants and are waiting for results.
“This local outbreak could be the result of a contaminated product delivered to and served at Evergreens,” according to the release. “In addition, many of the people who became ill after eating at Evergreens also reported eating raw vegetables, including leafy greens, from sources other than Evergreens in the days prior to their illness, meaning they could share a separate source for their illness, unrelated to Evergreens.”
The four restaurants had discarded all romaine products, following a Nov. 22 advisory about Salinas romaine from the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC, but the sick people ate at Evergreens before the advisory was issued.
“Public Health is working with the Washington State Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration on tracing back the distributors and sources for ingredients the (patients) consumed in their meals,” according to the release. “Traceback is used to identify other points of contamination up the supply chain.”
The King County Health Department has visited the four restaurants twice, according to the Nov. 26 release, and verified Evergreens staff followed food safety protocols, including sanitizing methods.