Romaine lettuce linked to E. coli O145 outbreak; over 50 people sick; where was lettuce grown?

Romaine lettuce appears to be the vehicle for E. coli O145 which has sickened over 50 people, primarily at university campuses in Michigan, Ohio and New York.

Cross-contamination was unlikely in this scenario because students in different states got sick at the same time, and investigators said early on that beef was an unlikely vehicle.

Freshway Foods of Sidney, Ohio, just announced it is voluntarily recalling products containing romaine lettuce with a use by date of May 12 or earlier because they have the potential to be contaminated with Escherichia coli O145 bacteria. The products were sold under the Freshway brand and Imperial Sysco brand. The company is working with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inform consumers of this recall.
This recall includes romaine lettuce products sold by Freshway Foods for food service outlets, wholesale, and in-store retail salad bars and delis; no other products are involved. Freshway Foods does not produce bulk, prepackaged romaine or bagged salad mixes containing romaine for sale in supermarkets.

The recalled romaine lettuce products were sold to wholesalers and food service outlets in the following states east of the Mississippi river: Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The recalled romaine products were also sold for distribution to in-store salad bars and delis for Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Markets, and Marsh stores in the states listed.

(Note, as Amy pointed out, I’m not sure what genius wrote this press release, but Kansas is west of the Mississippi river, not east. Does that mean Dillions in Manhattan, Kansas, owned by Kroger, should be cleaning out its salad bar?)

The recall comes after FDA informed Freshway Foods the afternoon of Wednesday, May 5 that a previously unopened product sample in a New York state laboratory tested positive for the bacteria. Freshway Foods traced the entire lot of romaine products and is advising customers to cease use and distribution of it immediately. This recall may be linked to an outbreak investigation in New York, Michigan, and Ohio.

Now, where was the romaine lettuce grown?