ECU faculty member advises consumers on recent E. coli food outbreaks

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FILE – This Nov. 20, 2018 file photo shows Romaine Lettuce in Simi Valley, Calif. Health officials are disclosing another E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from the summer 2019, but say it appears to be over.
The disclosure comes after romaine producers pledged to step up safety measures following a series of outbreaks, including one last year that sickened more than 200 and killed five. Experts say it’s not clear why romaine keeps getting tainted. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) East Carolina University (ECU) faculty members are advising consumers on a recent E. coli food outbreak.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “more than 100 people including at least one North Carolina resident have been infected by E. coli bacteria in romaine lettuce.”

The (CDC) is advising consumers to throw away possible contaminated lettuce.

Dr. Nicole Arnold, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition Science at ECU, said this is the latest E. coli outbreak associated with lettuce over the past couple of years.

Arnold’s research interests include food safety education and interventions and she is part of a team looking at waterless, nonthermal processing technologies for produce.

“Now more than ever, new processing methods and technologies are needed to reduce potential food safety risks associated with raw produce,” Arnold said.

“Because consumers often do not cook produce, such as lettuce or other leafy greens, additional steps must be taken to minimize the potential for microbial contamination.”

The CDC says this latest outbreak has been linked to Salinas, California.

Officials are urging consumers to check their lettuce labels.

If it says “grown in Salinas” or is not labeled, people are urged not to eat it and to throw it out.

“If you are eating out and decide to order a salad, or any meal containing leafy greens, ask your server if they have knowledge of the growing region,” Arnold said.

“If a server does not know, ask for a manager. It is OK to ask questions.”

The CDC described the symptoms of an E. coli infection as severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting.

Some people can also experience a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome as a result of E. coli, CDC says.

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