By Caribbean News Now contributor
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Following a food safety alert issued by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Tuesday, regional health officials have warned consumers to avoid eating romaine lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce until more information on the source of the contamination and the status of an outbreak of E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce can be determined.
According to the CDC, consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has become sick.
This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
Consumers should err on the side of caution and if they do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, they should not eat it and throw it away.
Drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored should also be washed and sanitized.
Thirty-two people infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli have been reported from 11 states in the US and 18 people infected with the same DNA fingerprint of E. coli bacteria in two Canadian provinces: Ontario and Quebec.
People infected with E. coli can have a wide range of symptoms appear within one to ten days after contact with the bacteria. These symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, headache, mild fever, severe stomach cramps and watery or bloody diarrhoea.
Although some people may not get sick at all, they can still spread the infection to others. Others may feel as though they have a bad case of upset stomach, and, in some cases, individuals may become seriously ill and must be hospitalized.
Most symptoms end within five to ten days. There is no real treatment for E. coli infections, other than monitoring the illness, providing comfort, and preventing dehydration through proper hydration and nutrition. People who develop complications may need further treatment, like dialysis for kidney failure.
The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs in Barbados recommended anyone affected to contact their health care provider if symptoms persist.
In the Cayman Islands, many stores and restaurants have pulled the produce from their shelves and menus. The Department of Environmental Health (DEH) has also urged the public, restaurant operators, wholesalers, and retailers not to purchase, eat, serve or sell romaine lettuce until otherwise notified.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the ministry of health has advised the public that romaine lettuce originating from the US should not be consumed.
Wholesale distributors, supermarket and restaurant owners/managers are also advised not to offer for sale, romaine lettuce in any form (such as in Caesar salads) to the public, until clearance is provided by the ministry of health.