The FDA has warned consumers of the potential of E.coli illness from the use of certain brands and “use-by” dates of Dole pre-packaged salads. The nationwide health alert is based on an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Minnesota.
Since people undergoing chemotherapy are at increased risk for any infection and those who have been treated for rectal or colon cancer may also experience increased diarrhea, colorectal cancer patients and their families should be particularly careful to check the brands and “use-by” dates for any pre-packaged salads. Although these salads should no longer be on store shelves, consumers may still have them in their refrigerators.
The alert covers the following products:
+ Classic Romaine – with a “best-if-used-by (BIUB)” date of September 23, 2005 and a production code beginning with “B250.”
+ American Blend – with a “best-if-used-by (BIUB)” date of September 23, 2005 and a production code beginning with “B250.”
+ Greener Selection – with a “best-if-used-by (BIUB)” date of September 22, 2005, and a production code beginning with “B250.”
The FDA warns consumers not to eat or serve salads from these batches. The “best used if” code date is located in the upper right-hand corner of the front of the bag. At this time the FDA does not believe that other DOLE products are affected, and they say that the DOLE company is working cooperatively with them and has recalled alll potentially dangerous salads.
The FDA believes that this warning is an urgent one because:
E. coli O157:H7 infection often causes severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps; sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhea or no symptoms. Usually little or no fever is present, and the illness resolves in five to ten days. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, in some persons, particularly children under five years of age and the elderly, the infection can also cause a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.
The FDA recommends anyone who experienced any of these symptoms after eating pre-packaged salad contact their physician or their local health department.
Although these lettuces are washed prior to packaging, high risk individuals, especially those who might become dehydrated from diarrhea, should wash them again at home and keep them refrigerated.
“Lettuce is washed before it’s sold, but our research has shown the risks of food-borne illness can be greatly reduced by washing it again at home,” said Joe Frank, a food microbiologist with the University of Georgia Center for Food Safety in Griffin, Ga.
Frank found that E.coli clings to the “stomata” or tiny breathing holes in lettuce leaves. He also found increased levels of E. coli on the cut edges of lettuce and in bruised areas.
Although washing with a chlorine solution destroys E. coli on cut surfaces of lettuces, the scientists at the University of Georgia do not recommend this at home. Washing will reduce, but not eliminate risk of disease.
Not all strains of E. coli cause disease. In fact, the organism is part of the helpful bacteria in the healthy human intestinal tract. However, dangerous strains such as the E. coli O157:H7 found in the Minnesota outbreak can cause severe illness in people who are already battling other disease.
[FDA Nationalwide Health Alert](http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/news/2005/new01239.html)
[Recommendations from the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia](http://www.griffin.peachnet.edu/cfs/hottopics/lettuce.html)