OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers are investigating three new outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7. Although no specific source of the infections has conclusively been identified, the strains involved are the same strains previously linked to outbreaks from Romaine lettuce in 2018 and 2019. Further, the outbreak strain identified in the third outbreak was found on Romaine lettuce sold under the Tanimura & Antle brand. Consumers are advised not to eat this product and return or discard any that they have in their homes. The product has now been recalled.
If you have recently been diagnosed with an E. coli infection, please call or contact us using the form on the page for a free consultation.
*This page will update as more information becomes known*
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced three distinct, ongoing outbreaks of E. coli infections.
First, on October 28, 2020, CDC announced two separate multistate outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 (STEC) infections. Investigators still have not yet isolated a specific food item responsible for the infections in either outbreak. That said, genetic testing has shown that the specific strains involved are the same strains involved in outbreaks linked to Romaine lettuce in 2018 and 2019. This does not prove that the current outbreaks are caused by Romaine lettuce, because the same strains of bacteria can contaminate many different kinds of foods.
Second, on November 10, 2020, CDC announced a third, distinct outbreak of infections. At least 12 people in 6 states have been sickened in this outbreak, and five have been hospitalized.
On November 6, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) announced that it had discovered E. coli in samples taken from bagged Romaine lettuce sold under the Tanimura & Antle brand. CDC later confirmed that the strain of E. coli found on the lettuce is responsible for the illnesses in the third outbreak announced on November 10th, although it is too soon to know whether any of the illnesses were directly caused by the recalled lettuce.
Nonetheless, MDARD and FDA are advising consumers not to eat the Tanimura & Antle Romaine lettuce, and to return or discard any in their possession. The product is sold in a zip-top clear plastic bag with a blue label and white lettering. The E. coli was specifically found in product with the UPC number 0-27918-20314-9 and a white sticker indicating it was packed in Salinas, California on October 15, 2020.
Shortly after MDARD’s announcement, the Food & Drug Administration announced a recall of the implicated product:
Tanimura & Antle Inc. is voluntarily recalling its packaged single head romaine lettuce under the Tanimura & Antle brand, labeled with a packed on date of 10/15/2020 or 10/16/2020, due to possible contamination with E. Coli 0157:H7. Packages contain a single head of romaine lettuce with the UPC number 0-27918-20314-9. …
The recall is being conducted in consultation with FDA, and is based on the test result of a random sample collected and analyzed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development as part of their routine sampling program. A total of 3,396 cartons of potentially affected product were distributed in the United States to the following states: AK, OR, CA, TX, AR, OK, IN, NE, MO, TN, WI, NM, SC, WA, NC, OH, VA, MA, PR, and IL. The potentially affected product was shipped in cases packed in either 12, 15, 18 or 24 heads per case. Retailers and distributors can identify the potentially affected products through the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) sticker attached to exterior of the case. The PTI codes are 571280289SRS1 and 571280290SRS1.
Together, the outbreaks have sickened people across the United States. In all, 56 people have already become sick in 15 states: Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin, California, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington. At least 23 people have been hospitalized and there has been one tragic death.
Outbreak No. 1:
Outbreak No. 2:
Outbreak No. 3 (strain found on recalled Romaine lettuce):
According to food safety lawyer Ryan Osterholm most outbreaks like this are ultimately solved. “We know so far is that multiple people were sickened over a relatively short period of time. This gives the health department investigators the epidemiological and microbiological data they need to crack the case.” Osterholm also said that would not be surprised that Romaine lettuce has been implicated. “Unfortunately, we have represented hundreds of people sickened after eating fresh or read-to-eat produce.”
Osterholm and food safety attorney Brendan Flaherty are investigating the current E. coli outbreak and together worked extensively on the 2018 Romaine and 2019 Romaine outbreaks. Last year, Flaherty spoke with Emilee Fannon at WKOW News in Madison, Wisconsin about the 2019 E. coli outbreak tied to Romaine. As with that outbreak, he expects more cases to surface because there’s typically at least a two-week lag between the time tests are done and the time they are reported to the health department. The fact that COVID-19 case are stressing public health departments and healthcare provides makes this kind of lag even more likely.
Flaherty has recovered millions of dollars for clients sickened in these kinds of outbreaks, including a seven-figure settlement for an individual who developed the serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Up to 10% of individuals suffering from an E. coli infection develop HUS, which is a life-threatening condition. HUS develops about seven days after the first E. coli symptoms appear and when the diarrhea is improving. HUS can cause a person’s kidneys to stop working. If you notice the signs, you should get yourself or loved one to the hospital for treatment right away.
Symptoms of HUS include:
Many people diagnosed with HUS recover within a few weeks with proper treatment. However, HUS can cause permanent physical harm or even death.
OFT Law offers free consultations to anybody potentially impacted by the outbreak. We have already filed a Wisconsin lawsuit we believe to be related to this outbreak