After E. Coli Outbreak, CDC Advises Tossing All Lettuce

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Since the discovery of E. coli in romaine lettuce originating from Yuma, Arizona last month, consumers have been on high alert for affected produce. Now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are advising more extreme measures: if you’re unsure of where your salad originated, and if there’s a chance it might contain romaine lettuce — for example, if you’ve bought a selection of mixed greens — throw it away, stat.
Technically, the CDC hasn’t issued a lettuce recall, so consumers really do need to double-check their produce before buying or eating it. It’s also important to note that washing your greens won’t reduce your risk of infection if the mix includes leaves affected by the romaine lettuce outbreak. "This bacteria can actually get inside the lettuce leaf," CDC Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch Chief Ian Williams told CNN.
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Tossing newly purchased greens might seem overcautious — especially in light of conversations going on around food waste — but it comes down to a critical food packaging issue. In many cases, lettuce is sold without specific place of origin markers. So while it might be possible to identify some romaine lettuce recall brands with ties to Yuma, the absence of a brand from that list wouldn’t necessarily guarantee its safety. The CDC also suggests skipping any restaurant dish served with romaine lettuce unless staff can identify the source of their produce.
So far 53 people in 16 states have reportedly been infected by the current E. coli outbreak. More than half have been hospitalized, to give you a sense of just how nasty this strain is. While symptoms of an E. coli infection typically include cramps and other digestive upsets, the CDC advises that five patients have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

Hopefully the outbreak will be resolved soon — but for now, we’ll take the excuse to skip the salad.

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Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

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