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Richmond area restaurants, grocers pull romaine lettuce amid E. coli outbreak

Posted at 10:35 PM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 09:33:17-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Restaurateurs and grocery store employees pulled romaine lettuce from their menus and shelves amid a nationwide alert regarding an E. coli contamination.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned US consumers on Tuesday to not eat romaine lettuce as it may be contaminated with the bacteria.

A total of 32 people, including 13 who have been hospitalized, have been infected with the outbreak strain in 11 states, according to the CDC. One of the hospitalized developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

Herm Baskerville, owner of Big Herm's in Richmond's Jackson Ward, said he planned to return a case of romaine he purchased prior to the outbreak.

"We use romaine typically on our sandwiches, so from here on out people will be getting a spring mix until we get a clarification on it," Baskerville explained. "Some of the stuff we already had washed and cut up we threw that out, but we do have some bagged romaine."

David Hahn, the owner of Salt and Forge on North 2nd Street, took to Facebook to notify customers of changes to their menu after the CDC alert was issued at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Colorado native stated he was knowledgeable about the romaine lettuce from his experience at a former employer.

"The vast majority of the romaine we eat in this country comes from one of two growing regions -one is the Salinas Valley in California and the other is the Yuma, Arizona area," Hahn described. "About 98 percent of the romaine that is consumed in this country comes from one of those two areas. We know there’s a problem. We don’t know where that problem is, but we need to take measures to ensure the safety of the population."

CBS 6 found romaine lettuce on shelves at Elwood Thompson's grocery store in Carytown, Tuesday night. Employees removed the products after our inquiry.

Romaine was also being sold at the Kroger on West Cary Street hours after the warning was sent out.

Allison McGee, a spokesperson with Kroger Mid-Atlantic, sent the statement:

Food safety is a matter that Kroger takes very seriously. As soon as the information was distributed within Kroger, we began the process to remove the recalled items from the shelves. All of the products that contain Romaine lettuce have been removed from the Carytown location. Recalls of products like romaine lettuce affect multiple items within our stores and it does take some time for items to be scanned out and removed. Customers can return products for a full refund. Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.

The lettuce was pulled from shelves and an advisory warning customers was posted at the Wegmans located on Stone Village Way in Midlothian.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified an additional 18 people who have become sick with the same strain of E. coli in Ontario and Quebec.

If you have any brand or type of romaine lettuce at home, you should throw it away, even if you ate some and did not get sick, the CDC cautioned. Retailers and restaurants also should not serve or sell any until more is learned about the outbreak. All brands of romaine lettuce are suspect because no common grower, supplier, distributor or brand has been identified by the CDC.

Symptoms, which usually begin about three to four days after consuming the bacteria, can include watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting, according to the CDC. Most people infected by the bacteria get better within five to seven days, though this particular strain of E. coli tends to cause more severe illness.

Illnesses started in October. The current outbreak is not related to a multi-state outbreak linked to romaine lettuce this summer.

The CNN Wire contributed to this article.