Throw out your romaine lettuce — CDC

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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention asked Americans on Friday to throw away romaine lettuce unless they could clearly identify where it came from.

The warning stems after investigators discovered that inmates from the facility in Alaska grew to become ill immediately after ingesting lettuce "from the region that was affected; out of heads of romaine lettuce & rdquo, " the CDC explained. Don't eat any store-bought chopped romaine, including salad mixes with romaine, and organic romaine.

Romaine lettuce to date has sickened 53 people with E. coli in 16 states.

CBS News' Don Dahler reports that 90 percent of the romaine grown in the US between November and March comes from the Yuma region, and while the exact source of the outbreak hasn't been identified, the CDC strongly suspects that region is the culprit. "If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away", said the CDC. So, once again, clean all the romaine lettuce out of your fridge.

A map on the CDC website shows California has registered one case so far.

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The E. coli spreading through the states is "toxin-producing", the CDC states - specifically a toxin known as Shiga. Cases have now been reported in five more states, the CDC added, bringing the total number of states involved to 16. Three days later the agency told consumers to throw away any pre-chopped romaine lettuce they had on hand, even if people had eaten some of it and not become ill. No common grower, supplier, distributor or brand from the Yuma area has been identified.

As of Wednesday, the hospitalization rate for this outbreak was about 58 per cent, much higher than the 30 per cent normally associated with infections involving E. coli O157: H7, according to a CDC update sent to clinicians on Thursday.

Symptoms of this strain of E. coli include severe stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea, which is often bloody, officials said. Most recover within one week but there is a chance of kidney failure.

It can take weeks to track down the source of a food poisoning outbreak.

William Marler, a Seattle personal injury lawyer who specializes in food-borne illnesses, said a married couple in Flathead County are among the 25 people he is representing. The bacteria can be spread by contaminated water, animal manure or in undercooked beef.

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