At the time of this writing, sixty-seven people have been diagnosed with E. coli in relation to the romaine lettuce recall last week. The cases are spread across nineteen states, and can all be traced back to contaminated romaine lettuce.
What Is Being Done About the Outbreak?
Officials have narrowed the affected lettuce down to products harvested from Salinas, California. Consumers are warned to avoid any lettuce grown or sold in this region, and vendors have been ordered to stop selling any produce until the outbreak is addressed.
The now-blocked items include “whole heads of romaine, organic romaine, hearts of romaine, romaine in salad wraps, and packages of precut lettuce and salad mixes which contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad,” according to the CDC.
The CDC’s Statement
The CDC minced no words when warning consumers about the dangers of romaine grown in Salinas. “Look for a label showing where the romaine lettuce was grown. It may be printed on the package or on a sticker,” the agency announced in a statement. “If the label says ‘grown in Salinas’ (whether alone or with the name of another location), don’t eat it. Throw it away.”
Frank Yiannas, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, further explained that you shouldn’t even eat any lettuce without a location stamp. If a retailer can’t determine that romaine was grown outside of Salinas, they shouldn’t sell it, according to the FDA.
E. Coli Outbreak Impacts
Of the sixty-seven people infected by E. coli due to this outbreak, thirty-nine have been hospitalized. That’s over half of the exposed patients. Six of the hospitalized people have developed some form of kidney failure as a direct result of E. coli infection.
Thankfully, no deaths have yet been reported. However, this story is eerily familiar for Americans. In 2017, this same strain of E. coli was carried on leafy greens. In 2018, it struck again, this time on romaine. This outbreak is simply a repeat of those earlier recalls.
And, once again, the culprit is the same: The plants are grown downstream from cattle farms. This means that farmers are still watering their plants with river water that has been infected with E. coli from cattle excrement. The FDA and CDC have both urged customers to avoid romaine altogether until the industry implements true health safety measures to prevent further outbreaks.