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E. coli outbreak: Wendy's removes romaine lettuce from sandwiches in Michigan

Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said Friday that it's investigating a possible link between an E. coli outbreak and romaine lettuce served on sandwiches from Wendy's restaurants.

The CDC said 37 people in four states are known to have been infected in the outbreak. Of those, 15 are in Michigan. Nineteen are in Ohio, two in Pennsylvania and one in Indiana.

The agency said a specific food "has not yet been confirmed as the source of this outbreak, but most sick people reported eating sandwiches with romaine lettuce at Wendy’s restaurants before getting sick."

"Among 26 people interviewed, 22 (86%) reported eating at a Wendy’s restaurant in the week before their illness started," the CDC said.

As a result, the CDC said, Wendy's would remove romaine lettuce from its sandwiches at restaurants in the region. The agency described the move as a "precautionary measure."

Wendy's did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Michigan Radio. The company told the New York Times it is "fully cooperating with public health authorities on their ongoing investigation of the regional E. coli outbreak reported in certain Midwestern states.”

“While the CDC has not yet confirmed a specific food as the source of that outbreak, we are taking the precaution of removing the sandwich lettuce from restaurants in that region,” Wendy's told the Times.

The CDC said it is not recommending that people avoid eating at Wendy's or avoid eating romaine lettuce.

"At this time, there is no evidence to indicate that romaine lettuce sold in grocery stores, served in other restaurants, or in people’s homes is linked to this outbreak," the agency said.

The CDC said symptoms of E. coli infection often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Mostly people get better in five to seven days, the CDC said, though some infections can be life-threatening.

In the current outbreak, the agency said 10 people have been hospitalized, including three in Michigan "who have a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome." No deaths have been reported.

Brett joined Michigan Public in December 2021 as an editor.
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