Lettuce Implicated in Michigan E. Coli Outbreak

The Michigan Department of Community Health issued a public health alert Sept. 29 after 26 cases of E. coli O157:H7 were confirmed in eight counties in the state. Fresh-cut iceberg lettuce consumed at restaurants and institutions are thought to be the source of the outbreak.

Some of the fresh-cut lettuce was processed by Detroit-based Aunt Mid's Produce Co., although trace back and product testing is still being conducted.

Illnesses include seven students and Michigan State University in Lansing, three students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and five inmates in the Lenawee County Jail. The first case was confirmed on Sept. 8, and all cases have been genetically linked, according to the state.

"Our top priority at the Michigan Department of Community Health is to protect the public," said Gregory Holzman, chief medical executive for MDCH. "We appreciate all of the assistance from Aunt Mid's. They have been very helpful in this investigation. We want to ensure that the public's health and well-being is protected. Even though the investigation is ongoing, available evidence is strongly pointing to iceberg lettuce."

Aunt Mid's has voluntarily suspended its lettuce processing line until the results of an independent laboratory's tests come back. Initial test results at the plant have indicated no contamination, and more tests are being conducted to confirm those results, according to the company's Web site.

Originally posted Monday, Sep. 29, 2008