UPDATE (January 29, 2018) — Finally some good news: The E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce is over at last, according to U.S. health experts. Following the announcement of the end of the outbreak, Consumer Reports is no longer recommending that consumers avoid romaine lettuce.
"It’s encouraging that since mid-December there have been no more reports of people getting sick from this dangerous strain of E. coli," said James E. Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.
During the outbreak, two people in the U.S. and Canada died, 22 were hospitalized, and 66 became ill. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) said it would continue working with federal, state, and local partners to find out which specific leafy greens made people sick and where they bought the greens.
UPDATE (January 11, 2018) — Bad news for Americans: Though the E. coli outbreak has ended in Canada, it's spreading even further throughout the United States.
Maryland and New Jersey have both been struck by the outbreak, making it 15 states total that have been affected so far. Those two states join California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the total number of those infected with the illness is now 24. Nine of those people have been hospitalized, two of whom are suffering from kidney failure. As previously reported, there has been one death in the U.S. as a result of this outbreak.
Though Consumer Reports previously warned Americans to avoid romaine lettuce upon initial reporting of the outbreak, the CDC is now identifying the likely source as a more general "leafy greens."
"The likely source of the outbreak in the United States appears to be leafy greens, but officials have not specifically identified a type of leafy greens eaten by people who became ill," the CDC said.
The good news? Officials think the outbreak might be over soon.
"Leafy greens typically have a short shelf life, and since the last illness started a month ago, it is likely that contaminated leafy greens linked to this outbreak are no longer available for sale," the CDC said.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (January 4, 2018) — Step away from the Caesar salad for now, folks. According to Consumer Reports, romaine lettuce is likely the cause of recent cases of E. coli food poisoning — and this strain is particularly dangerous.
Over the past seven weeks, there have been 58 reported cases so far in the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S., the infections have occurred in 13 states: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington. Tragically, two people have already died.
Canadian health authorities identified romaine lettuce as the cause of the E. coli outbreak in their country, and they have since advised people to avoid this specific salad green until further notice. And now, food safety experts at Consumer Reports are advising consumers in the States to avoid the lettuce as well, until the specific product causing the outbreak is identified and removed from shelves.
“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,” said James Rogers, Ph.D., Director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports.
As you might know, E. coli is nothing to mess around with. Health experts say the worst types of E. coli can potentially cause bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, and even death in some cases. Though anyone can get sick from accidentally consuming food contaminated by E. coli, children and adults with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable.
To keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy, it's probably a good idea to avoid all types of romaine lettuce until the contaminated product is confirmed — and removed from all grocery stores.
Next, find out how long foods actually last past the expiration date: