The Department of Environmental Health has issued an advisory urging members of the public, restaurant operators, wholesalers and retailers not to purchase, eat, serve or sell romaine lettuce, because of potential E. coli contamination.

DEH officers have made contact with all wholesalers and local supermarkets throughout the Cayman Islands to ensure the removal of all affected products from their shelves. All forms of romaine lettuce, such as whole lettuce, pre-cut lettuce and salad mixes that include romaine lettuce are included in the action.  The advisory was prompted by a Center for Disease Control warning issued Tuesday. Local markets have pulled the product from their shelves.

The warning says 32 people in 11 U.S. states and 18 in two Canadian provinces were sickened between Oct. 8 and 31.

“Thirteen people were hospitalized, including one person who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported,” the CDC statement said.

The alert advises consumers to throw out any romaine lettuce they may have in their homes and to clean refrigerator surfaces where the greens were stored.

Joe Thorne, manager of Cost-U-Less in Grand Cayman, said the romaine the store removed from its produce section has been placed in quarantine. He is waiting to see if back-tracing efforts by the CDC will determine whether or not the lettuce is safe. Customers who purchased romaine lettuce can return the product to the store, he said.

The CDC alert said romaine lettuce with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria had been identified. E. coli is a common bacteria found in the human digestive system. Its presence in food/water is an indication of faecal contamination. In rare circumstances, the organism may result in more severe illnesses such as adult kidney failure, bleeding, and seizures. The CDC advises that if anyone has eaten this product and is experiencing any of these symptoms, contact a medical provider immediately.

Members of the public are advised to throw away salad mixes if they are uncertain whether romaine lettuce is an ingredient. Also, wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators which have been used to store romaine lettuce.

For further information concerning local efforts, contact the DEH at 949-6696. For other details, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.