58 people in the U.S. and Canada have fallen ill from a dangerous strain of E. Coli bacteria. The Canadian health authorities have identified romaine lettuce as the likely source of the E. Coli outbreak. This strain of E. coli (0157:H7) produces a toxin that can lead to serious illness, kidney failure, and in most extreme cases, even death. The U.S. has reported cases in 13 states including California, along with Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington state. So far, five people in the U.S. have been hospitalized and one has died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Canadian officials have advised people to find other types of salad to eat. The U.S. government health officials are conducting an ongoing investigating into the outbreaks and have recommended that, for the moment, romaine lettuce should be avoided. Washing your lettuce won't protect you from the possible deadly bacterial strain of E. coli so it is best to avoid it in its entirety.
“Even though we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is almost always consumed raw,” says James Rogers, Ph.D., director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports. While anyone can get sick from E. coli, small children and the elderly are more at risk, along with anyone with a compromised immune system. It is advised that you be more cautious with those that you know who may fall into those categories.
“There is not enough epidemiologic evidence at this time to indicate a specific source of the illnesses in the United States,” says Brittany Behm, MPH, who is a spokesperson for C.D.C. “Although some sick people reported eating romaine lettuce, preliminary data available at this time shows they were not more likely than healthy people to have eaten romaine, based on a C.D.C. food consumption survey.”
“The FDA should follow the lead of the Canadian government and immediately warn the public about this risk,“ says Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union. “The available data strongly suggest that romaine lettuce is the source of the U.S. outbreak," she says. "If so, and people aren’t warned, more may get sick.”
If you live in the United States or Canada please check your refrigerator for romaine lettuce and throw it out to be safe. It is always better to be safe than sorry.