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Romaine lettuce recall update

PA Department of Health issues warning

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - The Pennsylvania Department of Health is urging residents to toss out romaine lettuce linked to the recent E. coli outbreak. The threat is linked to 53 confirmed E. coli cases nationwide including a dozen in Pennsylvania. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller explains why the threat is so serious and what's being done locally to protect you.

Perusing the produce aisle, Kathy Ercolani of Laflin has been passing lately on a salad staple. "We haven't had it in a while because you have to wait until the scare goes over."

It's romaine lettuce at the root of an E. coli scare that became public knowledge on Friday the 13th. Schiel's Family Market was among grocery stores and supermarkets given a mid-month heads-up. "We weren't in that particular growing area that was under the recall which was the Yuma, Arizona area," said Schiel's Family Market Produce Manager Loren  Holmes.

Yuma is a major supplier of romaine lettuce during the fall and winter before the industry shifts back to Salinas, California for the spring and summer months. It's lettuce from Salinas that Schiel's is currently selling.

Besides keeping the lettuce shelves freshly stocked, the produce manager here says concerned consumers with their questions have also been keeping him busy. "The last week or so has been constantly fielding questions and trying to give answers to comfort people," said Mr. Holmes.

Consumers still have good reason to be concerned. Bagged salad usually doesn't list the region where lettuce was grown and processed. And most of the recently documented E. coli illnesses connected to romaine lettuce are linked to restaurants. 

Geisinger Physician Richard Martin, MD says this particular strain of E. coli can cause severe illness. "This bacteria in particular causes abdominal pain, fever and pretty significant diarrhea which often becomes bloody."

It can even cause a type of kidney failure. The state health department urges you to throw out any romaine lettuce unless you know it came from Salinas. "That's good and I'll start buying it again," said Ms. Ercolani.

Of the 12 Pennsylvanians sickened by romaine lettuce, four of them had to be hospitalized and one did suffer kidney damage.
 


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