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Wendy’s removes lettuce from sandwiches as a ‘precautionary measure’ amid E. coli outbreak

The fast food chain removed lettuce from sandwiches in some locations, but said the lettuce in their salads was not related.
A sign is posted in front of a Wendy's restaurant on August 10, 2022 in Petaluma, California.
A sign is posted in front of a Wendy's restaurant on August 10, 2022 in Petaluma, California.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Wendy’s announced that it would be removing the lettuce used on sandwiches in several Midwestern regions amid an ongoing investigation into an E. coli outbreak announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.

The CDC said "many sick people reported eating sandwiches with romaine lettuce at Wendy’s restaurants in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania before getting sick," but said that they have not yet confirmed a source of the outbreak.

In a statement on Wendy’s website on Friday, August 19, the company said, "We are fully cooperating with public health authorities on their ongoing investigation of the regional E. coli outbreak reported in certain midwestern states."

“While the CDC has not yet confirmed a specific food as the source of that outbreak, we are taking the precaution of removing the sandwich lettuce from restaurants in that region," the statement continued. "The lettuce that we use in our salads is different, and is not affected by this action. As a company, we are committed to upholding our high standards of food safety and quality.”

The CDC initially announced the investigation on Wednesday, August 17. At the time, the outbreak had infected 29 people. The number of affected individuals has risen, with 37 reported illnesses and 10 hospitalizations across four states: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. There have been no reported deaths.

At this time, the CDC said investigators are still working to confirm if romaine lettuce is the source of the current outbreak as well as if the lettuce used by Wendy’s in its sandwiches was also sold at other businesses.

At this time, the agency is not advising consumers to avoid eating at Wendy’s or consuming romaine lettuce.

E. coli, short for Escherichia coli, is bacteria typically found in the intestines of animals and people. While most E. coli are not harmful, the CDC reports that some can cause illness when transmitted through water or food that has been contaminated or by contact with animals or people.

The CDC reports that symptoms of the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), the most common of the six strains, will begin three to four days after consuming the bacteria and include severe vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea, which is sometimes bloody. Individuals are expected to recover without treatment after five to seven days, however, some may also develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome and require hospitalization.

If you are experiencing any symptoms, the CDC recommends contacting your healthcare provider. For those who experience symptoms of infection, it is recommended to write down what you ate the week before you fell ill and report the illness to a local or state health department.