Another recent recall of fresh produce highlights the importance of safe food handling and rinsing even pre-washed produce. Freshway Foods of Ohio has announced a voluntary recall of romaine lettuce after reports of food borne illnesses from possible E.coli contamination. The New York State Public Health Laboratory found E.coli 0145 in an unopened recalled bag of shredded romaine. Products affected include bags of shredded romaine lettuce with “best if used by” dates prior to May 12; bags with “best if used by” dates of after May 12 are not affected. Freshway Foods sold the recalled products to wholesalers, food service outlets and some in-store deli and salad bars in Alabama, Connecticut, Washington DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Although these products are now off the shelves, consumers should make sure they throw away any remaining products in their homes.
Nineteen cases of illness resulting from E.coli 0145 have been reported from Michigan, New York, and Ohio; twelve of these cases required hospitalization. Symptoms of foodborne illness caused by E.coli can range from nothing to acute stomach cramps and diarrhea to kidney damage. Three of the reported cases involved a life threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome which causes blocked circulation or bleeding in the brain or kidneys. People experiencing a diarrheal illness with high fever, bloody stool, prolonged vomiting that could cause dehydration, symptoms of dehydration, or if the diarrheal illness lasts longer than three days should seek medical attention.
How to Protect Yourself
Consumers can protect themselves from foodborne illness by taking simple precautions. Cook meat and eggs thoroughly, using an internal thermometer. Avoid cross contamination by keeping raw meat and eggs away from vegetables and cooked foods and washing all surfaces that come into contact with raw products thoroughly. Chill leftovers promptly if they are not going to be eaten within four hours. Handle produce with clean hands and always rinse produce, even produce that has been pre-washed, and remove the outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage. Finally, report incidents of foodborne illness to your local health department.
For more information on this specific recall, see this Food and Drug Administration press release. For more information about foodborne illnesses in general, see the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. For more information on E.coli specifically, see the government’s food safety website.
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