~ Consumers urged to not eat ~
PHILIPSBURG–The Inspectorate of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA said on Thursday that it has found and ordered the disposal of romaine lettuce originating from the United States due to potential contamination with E. coli bacteria.
The Inspectorate said in a press release that the romaine lettuce is available in most supermarkets on the island and urges the public not to consume and to discard already-purchased romaine lettuce. Consumers are also being advised to wash and sanitise drawers or shelves in the refrigerator where the lettuce was stored.
“Restaurants are strongly advised not to serve any romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing romaine,” the release said. “This advice is based on the food safety alert issued by both the FDA [US Food and Drug Administration – Ed.] and CDC [US Centers for Disease Control] not to consume any romaine lettuce and not to serve or sell any romaine lettuce at this time.”
The Inspectorate said it is in close contact with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is monitoring developments. Importers and re-sellers are informed and the necessary spot-checks are performed.
The Inspectorate said that at the time of its press release, 32 persons in the United States from 11 states had been reported to be infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 and the Public Health Agency of Canada had identified 18 ill people infected with the same DNA fingerprint of E.coli O157:H7 bacteria. Epidemiologic evidence from the United States and Canada indicates that consumption of romaine lettuce has been identified as the likely source of the outbreak.
The symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhoea. If there is fever, it is usually not very high (less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit/38.5 degrees Celsius). Most people get better within five to seven days. In general, antibiotics are not necessary. Most infections are very mild, but can be severe or even life-threatening in some cases. It is advised to consult a doctor in case of persisting or severe symptoms.
Usually, the FDA or CDC tries to issue warnings on specific brands or manufacturers of food. This time, they still have not found the common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce that is making people sick. In trying to prevent the outbreak from spreading, as this is still unclear, the Inspectorate has ordered retailers not to sell and to discard all romaine lettuce originating from the United States.