Update (11/27) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it's safe to eat romaine lettuce again — as long as you know that it wasn't grown in north and central California.
It's believed that the most recent E. coli outbreak is tied to "end-of-season" lettuce grown in California's Central Coast region, which stretches along the state's northern and central coast. As a result, hydroponic and greenhouse lettuce, or lettuce that was harvested in winter-growing regions are safe to eat.
In order for consumers to easily understand where their lettuce is coming from, romaine lettuce distributors and trade organizations will label the region from which the lettuce was harvested, as well as the date it was harvested. “If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it,” the CDC advised in its most recent update.
Update (11/20) — If you had planned to eat healthy this holiday season, you'll have to avoid romaine lettuce. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a food safety alert on November 20 warning consumers to stay away from romaine lettuce after numerous cases of E. coli infections in different states were linked to the lettuce.
"Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of pre-cut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad," the safety alert reads. "If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away." The CDC also recommends that all restaurants and retailers stop selling romaine lettuce, so we're giving you permission to order that burger instead.
So far, there have been 32 reported cases of E. coli infection in 11 states. As a result, 13 people have been hospitalized, the CDC reports. Fortunately, no deaths have been reported. We'll update this story as more details are released. Read below for info on the last E. coli infection linked to romaine lettuce.
Update (6/4) — The nationwide E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce has claimed five lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to Consumer Reports, the new statistic makes this outbreak the deadliest of its kind in America in more than 20 years.
Health officials reported a couple weeks ago that the salad greens responsible for the outbreak were probably no longer available in grocery stores and restaurants — and that is still the case. The reason why the numbers of deaths is just coming out now is due to a possible lag between the time of people getting sick and the reports getting back to the CDC. Furthermore, most of the people who got sick ate the lettuce while it was still in grocery stores and restaurants. Since the produce is likely no longer on shelves, the CDC is not recommending that Americans avoid romaine lettuce.
Update (5/21) — The romaine lettuce linked to a nationwide E. coli outbreak is probably no longer available at grocery stores or restaurants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Following this update, food safety experts at Consumer Reports say they cautiously give Americans the go-ahead to eat the popular salad green again.
"The risk regarding foodborne illness due to E. coli in romaine should be very low," said James E. Rogers, PhD. "However, because the source of the outbreak has not been specifically identified, if you want to be extra cautious, Consumer Reports advises you to consider some other type of lettuce for awhile longer."
As you may recall, the outbreak sickened 172 people in 32 states and even killed one person, so it's not surprising that this confirmation is one with caveats. According to Rogers, vulnerable groups such as the very young, the very old, or pregnant women should hold off on eating romaine for the time being.
Update (5/3) — In a sad turn of events, the nationwide E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce has claimed its first life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As per the agency's latest update, one person has died in California in the first known fatality associated with the dangerous bacteria strain. On top of that, 23 more infected people have been added to the ever-growing list of outbreak-related illnesses, which now totals 121.
Health officials still aren't sure which specific type of romaine lettuce is contaminated with this E. coli strain. As we previously reported, Consumer Reports is advising people to avoid eating any type of romaine lettuce for the time being. We'll update this article when more information becomes available, as the CDC continues to investigate the outbreak.
Update (4/26) — You may want to skip that Caesar salad lunch for a while: The countrywide E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce has now expanded to 19 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of the latest CDC update, 84 people have been infected, with 42 of those folks requiring hospitalization. You can track the spread of the outbreak as it develops on a map from the CDC. Though thankfully no deaths have been reported so far, nine infected people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a condition caused by the abnormal destruction of red blood cells that clogs the kidneys and can lead to life-threatening kidney failure.
Health officials still don't know which specific type of romaine lettuce is contaminated with this dangerous E. coli strain. As we previously reported, Consumer Reports is urging customers to avoid all types of romaine lettuce for now. Meanwhile, the CDC continues to investigate the outbreak, and we'll update this article when more information becomes available.
Original Article (4/23) — The national E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce continues to grow, with 53 people across 16 states infected so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a result, 31 people have been hospitalized, including five people who have developed kidney failure. The CDC has warned consumers to avoid buying or eating romaine lettuce unless they can confirm it did not come from the growing region of Yuma, Arizona. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports has taken the CDC's advice a step further, alerting consumers to avoid all romaine lettuce for the time being.
If this story sounds strangely familiar, you're not imagining things. Back in January, a different E. coli outbreak led Consumer Reports to issue a similar warning about romaine lettuce. Unfortunately, one person in the United States and one person in Canada died during that outbreak, while 22 were hospitalized and 66 total became ill. Though health experts announced that the outbreak had been contained by end of January, the beloved green (and the star of classic dishes such as Caesar salad) appears to once again be tainted.
Despite the CDC solely specifying Arizona in its warning, experts at Consumer Reports believe it's better to simply avoid romaine lettuce altogether. These officials reason that it'd be difficult for salad lovers to figure out exactly where their romaine lettuce came from.
"Consumer Reports is making this recommendation given the potentially fatal consequences of E. coli, the fact that there are still several unknowns about this outbreak, and that no type of romaine has been ruled definitively safe by government officials," said James E. Rogers, PhD, director of food safety research and testing at the publication. "While we are making this decision out of an abundance of caution, this warning is particularly important for vulnerable people like the elderly, pregnant women, and young children."
E. coli is a type of potentially dangerous bacteria that can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and vomiting. Although most healthy people recover from an E. coli infection within a week, young kids and older folks have a greater risk of developing a life-threatening form of kidney failure from E. coli, according to the Mayo Clinic.
So far, no deaths have been reported during this most recent outbreak, and we certainly hope it stays that way. We'll update this story as more information becomes available.