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Smith's iceberg lettuce recall downgraded to precautionary

SALT LAKE CITY — Seventy-one Smith's stores throughout five Western states were told Thursday afternoon to remove and destroy hundreds of heads of iceberg lettuce after the company received an urgent recall notice due to possible salmonella contamination.

However, by early Friday afternoon the recall had been downgraded from "urgent" to "precautionary and voluntary," according to Smith's Food and Drug spokeswoman Marsha Gilford.

"There is minimal risk from contact with any salmonella," she said. As a precaution, customers may want to throw out iceberg lettuce that shows a Growers Express brand sticker, which should be on the plastic wrap.

Lettuce from the central California produce company is not known to have had any salmonella contamination.

Smith's officials got the original, urgent — so-called Class 1 — recall around 4 p.m. Thursday, Gilford said. Workers at all 71 Smith's at stores in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and northern Nevada began removing iceberg lettuce from shelves.

Friday, when it was clarified that the actual source of the salmonella was not a Growers Express lettuce field but a nearby one owned by another company, the recall was downgraded to Class 2: voluntary and precautionary.

Gilford said that customers should be cautious, but not overly worried. "Our most important concern, of course, is the safety," she said.

To notify customers, Smith's had put up signs in its produce departments, made automated phone calls to customers with Smith's discount card information and printed out warnings on those people's receipts, she said.

Growers Express supplies lettuce and other produce to grocery stores nationwide.

The Smith's stores affected by the recalls are those served by its Layton distribution center. The company website also lists affected stores as those owned by Smith's parent company, Kroger, in North Carolina, Virginia, eastern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, most people infected with the salmonella bacteria develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.

Each year, about 40,000 cases of salmonella are reported in the U.S., but because many milder cases go unreported, the CDC says, the actual number may be as much as 30 times higher.

If the diarrhea becomes severe, the salmonella infection can spread to the bloodstream and other body parts, which can result in death unless the person is treated quickly with antibiotics, according to the CDC.

Gilford advised consumers to always wash fresh produce with water before eating.