National

E. coli outbreak traced to lettuce; some sold in Kansas

WASHINGTON — An E. coli outbreak possibly linked to tainted lettuce has sickened at least 19 people in Ohio, New York and Michigan, prompting a recall throughout much of the country.

Freshway Foods of Sidney, Ohio, said it was recalling romaine lettuce sold in the District of Columbia and 23 states, including Kansas, because of a possible link to E. coli.

Twelve of those sickened were hospitalized and three reported life-threatening symptoms, the Food and Drug Administration said. The federal Centers for Disease Control said it was looking at 10 other cases probably linked to the outbreak.

College students at Ohio State in Columbus and Daemen College in Amherst, N.Y., are among those affected, according to local health departments in those states. Nine of the 10 confirmed cases in Michigan were in Washtenaw County, where the University of Michigan is located. It could not be determined immediately, however, whether that school was affected.

The FDA is focusing its investigation on lettuce grown in Arizona as a possible source for the outbreak, according to two people who have been briefed by the agency.

The New York state Public Health Laboratory in Albany discovered the contamination in a bag of Freshway Foods shredded romaine lettuce on Wednesday. The bag of lettuce came from a processing facility that was also linked to the illnesses, the FDA said. The agency would not release the name of that facility or its location but said an investigation was under way.

E. coli infection can cause mild diarrhea or more severe complications, including kidney damage.

Freshway Foods said the lettuce was sold to wholesalers, food service outlets, in-store salad bars and delis in Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The affected lettuce has a "best if used by" date of May 12 or earlier. The recall also affects "grab and go" salads sold at Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Markets and Marsh grocery stores.

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