Five Minnesotans have suffered E. coli-related illnesses that are being traced to chopped salad kits implicated in a new national outbreak of the infection.

State and national health officials warned consumers to avoid — or throw out — a specific lot of Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits. The suspect batch has an identifying code of UPC 0 71279 30906 4, beginning with lot code Z, and a "best-before" date on or before Dec. 7.

Two of the Minnesotans were hospitalized, with infections stemming from the 0157:H7 strain of E. coli. They range in age from 21 to 91, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

So far, nine cases in three states have been traced back to this salad kit.

While the mix contains romaine lettuce, health officials don't know yet if that is the source of the contamination in this outbreak or whether it is related to the larger outbreak of more than 100 E. coli cases that has been traced to romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas, Calif., region.

The strain of E. coli is the same in both outbreaks, and typically is linked to about 200 foodborne infections in Minnesota each year.

E. coli infection usually causes digestive symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, along with a fever and dehydration. Most patients recover in a few days, but severe cases can damage blood vessels and kidneys.

Jeremy Olson