First spinach, now lettuce. Another leafy green vegetable is being recalled over E. coli bacteria concerns.
Nunes Co., a California lettuce grower that distributes its product nationwide, has issued a recall for lettuce because of concerns it might be tainted with E. Coli bacteria. So far, there have been no reports that any consumers have become ill. Like the grower at the center of the spinach recall, Nunes' operation is located in California's Salinas Valley.
Company officials said they issued the recalled based on water tests that revealed what they called "generic E. coli" in the water used in irrigation. They stressed that no bacteria has been found in the lettuce itself.
The recall covers lettuce purchased in grocery stores Oct. 3-6 in Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Since it was also sold to distributors in those states, chances are it was also sold to restaurants.
The FDA said it was aware of the voluntary recall but was not yet involved. The agency is currently one of four U.S. Government agencies investigating the spinach contamination. The FBI is also conducting a criminal probe, since food producers are criminally liable for the safety and integrity of their products.
ConsumerAffairs.com's medical advisor, Dr. Henry Fishman, said E. coli causes diarrhea, often with bloody stools, accompanied by cramps and abdominal pain.
E. Coli infections are not rare. Every year there are an estimated 73,000 cases and 61 deaths.
In fact, we have E. coli in our intestines, Fishman said. It helps turn our food into useful vitamins. However, this particular strain of the Enterobacteriaceae family is a particularly dangerous form of the bacteria. It is the same strain that was found in Jack in the Box meat in 1993 in Washington state. That strain infected 700 people and killed four.
Fishman said cooking food kills E. coli. However, boiling the spinach, compared to broiling hamburger meat, may not be enough.
Most healthy consumers should be able to fight the bacteria on their own by hydrating well, Fishman said. Antibiotics are generally not effective. Those who fall ill should should drink lots of fluids and seek medical attention promptly.
Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, some people can develop a form of kidney failure called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS).