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Why Are Leafy Greens Commonly Involved in E. Coli Outbreaks?

Posted on in E. Coli

Illinois food poisoning attorneysPeople in the United States are often affected by foodborne illnesses. Even though companies that grow, pack, manufacture, distribute, and sell food products are required to meet certain standards to ensure that these products are safe to eat, some foods still become contaminated, leading to serious cases of food poisoning. Of the many different sources of foodborne illness, E. coli is one of the most common, and over the past several years, there have been dozens of outbreaks that have been linked to lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens. 

Most recently, an E. coli outbreak resulted in 40 infections and 20 hospitalizations across 19 states between August and October of 2020. The majority of the patients interviewed during an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported eating leafy greens such as spinach or romaine lettuce before becoming infected. However, the CDC was unable to identify a specific source of this outbreak, since the harvesting, processing, and packaging of different types of leafy greens makes it difficult to determine where the original contamination occurred.

Contamination of Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are susceptible to E. coli contamination due to the way they are grown, harvested, and processed. In many cases, animals are raised near where these plants are grown, which may lead to the spread of bacteria to these products. E. coli contamination may also be spread through irrigation or while leafy greens are being harvested and handled. Contaminated products may be included in salad mixes, or cross-contamination may occur in a processing facility, grocery store, or restaurant.

Lettuce and other leafy greens are usually eaten raw, and this means that any E. coli bacteria that are present will end up in a person’s system. The CDC recommends that consumers wash all leafy greens that have not been labeled as “triple washed,” “no washing necessary,” or “ready to eat.” Removing and discarding the outer leaves may also help reduce the threat of infection. However, washing may not fully remove all bacteria, and a person may still become infected if any contamination is present.

After ingesting E. coli bacteria, a person will usually become ill within two to eight days. Symptoms may include vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea with bloody stools. In some cases, victims may experience a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Contact Our Illinois E. Coli Infection Attorneys

If you have contracted a foodborne illness, you may have needed significant medical treatment, especially if hospitalization was necessary. The costs of this treatment can add up quickly, and a serious illness may also affect your ability to return to work, resulting in financial difficulties due to the loss of income. At Newland & Newland, LLP, our attorneys can help you determine who was responsible for your food poisoning injury, and we will fight to make sure you are fully compensated for the damages you have suffered. Contact our Chicago food poisoning lawyers at 312-981-0409 to arrange a free consultation.

 

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2020/o157h7-10-20b/index.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/leafy-greens-were-linked-40-e-coli-outbreaks-decade-most-n1240178

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