Romaine lettuce from Tanimura & Antle brand sold at Walmart recalled for E. coli risk.
Romaine lettuce from the Tanimura & Antle brand and sold at Walmart stores in 20 states is recalled because of a risk of E. coli.
Photo: FDA

Tanimura & Antle, a produce company based in Salinas, Calif., recalled almost 4,000 cases of romaine lettuce sold across the country because it might be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, according to a Food and Drug Administration announcement. At least some of the lettuce was shipped to more than 1,000 Walmart stores.

Twelve people have been sickened in six states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The recalled products are single heads of romaine that are packaged in clear plastic bags bearing the brand name “Tanimura & Antle.” They’re stamped with a “packed on” date of 10/15/2020 or 10/16/2020.

The lettuce was shipped to Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico. Illnesses have been reported so far in California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

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The lettuce is not likely to still be in stores, but if you have it in your refrigerator, you’re urged to return it to the store for a full refund or throw it away.

E. coli was found on the lettuce during a routine test by the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. The sample was purchased at a Walmart in Comstock Park, Mich. The department says the product was packed in Salinas, Calif.

This recall is not part of a current CDC investigation of two separate E. coli outbreaks, says Brian Katzowitz, a spokesperson for the agency. The agency has not yet identified a specific food involved in those outbreaks, which have sickened 44 people in 13 states. However, the bacterial strains causing the illnesses are genetically related to strains that caused previous E. coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce.

People can become infected with E. coli two to eight days after exposure. The symptoms are stomach cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and sometimes a mild fever, and they generally last five to seven days. In some people, toxin-producing E. coli, such as the O157:H7 strain that contaminated the lettuce involved in this recall, can lead to kidney failure and death.

Contaminated romaine lettuce and other leafy greens have been linked to 46 multistate E. coli outbreaks between 2006 to 2019, according to the CDC.

One likely way E. coli can spread lettuce is via irrigation water that is contaminated with fecal matter from cattle that graze nearby, says James E. Rogers, PhD, director of Food Safety Research & Testing at Consumer Reports. Cattle can carry this specific E. coli strain in their guts, but it doesn’t make them sick.

A small amount of E. coli can contaminate large batches of leafy greens during the washing phase of production, Rogers says.  

“By the time growers combine multiple batches of lettuce, mix it around, rinse it, and wash it, that little bit of bacteria may spread over a lot of lettuce,” Rogers says. “And you can’t wash or rinse E. coli off. It’s just impossible.”

The Details

Product recalled: Tanimura & Antle single-head packaged romaine lettuce sold in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico with a pack date of 10/15/2020 or 10/16/2020.

The problem: The romaine lettuce may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

The fix: Return the lettuce to the store where it was purchased for a full refund or toss it into the trash.

How to contact the grower: Call Tanimura & Antle Consumer Hotline at 877-827- 7388.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include the number of people sickened and hospitalized. It was originally published on Nov. 10.