Lettuce on Wendy’s Sandwiches Potentially Linked to E. Coli Outbreak

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Federal health officials said on Friday that romaine lettuce on sandwiches from Wendy’s restaurants was possibly responsible for the “fast-moving” E. coli outbreak that has sickened dozens and hospitalized 10 people.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a specific food had not yet been confirmed, but most of those sickened reported having eaten sandwiches with romaine lettuce at Wendy’s restaurants in the week before their illness started. Of 26 people interviewed, 22 reported eating at a Wendy’s restaurant in Michigan, Ohio or Pennsylvania, the C.D.C. said.

In total, 37 people have become ill though 11 of them have yet to be interviewed. No deaths have been reported.

Lettuce used on the sandwiches differs from what is used in the chain’s salads, the company and C.D.C. said.

“We are fully cooperating with public health authorities on their ongoing investigation of the regional E. coli outbreak reported in certain Midwestern states,” Wendy’s said in a statement. “While the C.D.C. 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.”

Health officials said that people should not avoid eating at Wendy’s or buying 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 C.D.C. said in a news release.

On Wednesday, the agency said that 29 people had been sickened in an E. coli outbreak in Ohio and Michigan. By Friday, at least eight more people had been affected.

A total of 19 cases were reported in Ohio and 15 in Michigan, including three patients who have hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. Cases were also reported in two more states, Pennsylvania, with two, and Indiana, with one. In total, 10 people are hospitalized, the C.D.C. said.

E. coli is commonly found in the intestines of people and animals, and infections can begin when someone ingests food contaminated with feces, according to the C.D.C.

E. coli symptoms, which include cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, usually start about three to four days after swallowing the bacteria, health officials said. Most people who are infected recover without treatment within five to seven days, though people are encouraged to still contact their health care provider if they experience symptoms.

In 2019, an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce infected 167 people in 27 states, the C.D.C. said. No deaths were reported but 85 people were hospitalized, including 15 people who had kidney failure.

Those cases were caused by the same strain of E. coli that led to outbreaks linked to leafy greens in 2017 and to romaine lettuce in 2018, lab testing and data analysis showed.

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