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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Grocery stores and restaurants in our area are getting rid of romaine lettuce after an alert from the CDC Tuesday.

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It’s because of concerns over E. coli; and with Thanksgiving just days away, it could change people’s holiday menus.

“Especially with family members and everybody coming over, we don’t want to risk any possible problems,” said Mary Henderson, of Robinson.

(Photo Credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)

There have been previous warnings about romaine, but this outbreak is new.

At least 32 people in 11 states have gotten sick. Fortunately, no one has died.

The CDC is telling people not to eat any type or brand because they haven’t been able to track down a common source.

So the alert applies to heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, even romaine that’s part of a salad mix.

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Both Giant Eagle and Shop ‘n Save report that they’ve removed romaine from their shelves.

And there were signs posted at the Chipotle along McKnight Road telling customers that they’re not serving romaine. The chain is among the restaurants no longer using it as a precaution.

“Something went wrong here. We’re not sure what,” said Luke LaBorde, Ph.D., from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

But he says outbreaks typically have a common theme: “It’s usually associated with water. Water that’s associated with irrigation or washing the produce.”

In an earlier case, he says water passed through a cattle holding area and became contaminated with animal feces.

And contaminants are so small that washing the lettuce isn’t good enough.

“I mean you could boil it. That’s fine, but you don’t want boiled romaine lettuce,” LaBorde said. “Once produce is contaminated, it’s extremely difficult to wash off all of the bacteria.”

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Symptoms of an E.coli infection are bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps that normally happen three to four days after eating the food.

David Highfield