If you’re thinking about having or serving a salad for dinner, officials say you should skip the romaine lettuce for the time being because it has been linked to a number of E. coli outbreaks across the country.
In a statement released on April 25, the Centers for Disease Control announced an update on the E. coli outbreak that is currently plaguing the country. “Thirty-one more ill people were added to this investigation since the last update on April 18.”
The updated warning, which includes “whole heads and hearts of romaine lettuce, in addition to chopped romaine and salads and salad mixes containing romaine,” comes after additional states reported illnesses.
Here are the key takeaways consumers and restaurant employees should know:
1. The CDC recommends tossing all romaine lettuce products.
CDC officials say that consumers should not buy or eat romaine from a grocery store or restaurant unless they can be certain it is not from the impacted growing region in Arizona. To date, no specific brand or supplier has been identified as being contaminated.
“Everyone should take the recommendations of eliminating all romaine until further notice very seriously,” said Johnson & Wales University professor Patricia Bowman, CHE, FMP, CFSP, CFSE. “They have tracked the outbreak to the Yuma growing region of Arizona; however, new cases keep emerging. Until the product has been cleared from both the CDC and the FDA, it really should not be consumed by anyone.”
2. The outbreak is impacting people all over the country.
From California to Connecticut, people all over the United States are feeling the effects of the contaminated lettuce. So far, 19 states have reported illnesses linked to romaine lettuce, with the highest number of infections coming out of Pennsylvania. Among other states hit hardest by the outbreak are California, Idaho, New Jersey, and Montana. In Alaska, several inmates at a correctional institution in Nome became ill after eating what officials say was contaminated lettuce.
Illnesses linked to the strain in question, E. coli O157:H7, were first reported in March after several people became sick in New Jersey.
3. The hospitalization rate for this particular outbreak is higher than normal.
So far, the CDC said 42 out of the 84 people infected with this outbreak of E. coli had been hospitalized—making it a 50-percent hospitalization rate. As reported by the Washington Post, the norm for these types of infections is around 30-percent.
So far, no deaths have been reported, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t take this seriously. According to the CDC, several people “have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.”
Bowman says consumers should always be conscious of what they’re eating and aware of what is happening in the news surrounding food.
“This strain of E. Coli is very dangerous, especially to the very young and anyone with a compromised immune system,” Bowman said. “If it is not properly treated is can actually cause liver damage or even death.”
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