Consumer Reports has issued an advisory warning against eating romaine lettuce, citing recent cases of E. coli food poisoning tied to the popular salad green
Over the past seven weeks, 58 people in the U.S. and Canada have fallen ill from a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria, likely from eating romaine lettuce, the consumer magazine reports.
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 state).
Five people in the U.S. have been hospitalized and one has died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There has also been one death in Canada.
“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,” says Dr. James Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety and tesearch at Consumer Reports.
Canadian health authorities identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada, and are advising people in the country’s eastern provinces to consider eating other types of salad greens until further notice.
In the U.S., government health officials are investigating the outbreaks, but have stopped short of recommending people avoid romaine lettuce or any other food.
This strain of E. coli (0157:H7) produces a toxin that in some cases can lead to serious illness, kidney failure, and even death.
That’s why Consumer Reports' food safety experts are advising that consumers stop eating romaine lettuce until the cause of the outbreak is identified and the offending product is removed from store shelves.
While anyone can get sick if they are infected with E. coli 0157:H7, young children, the elderly, and anyone who has a condition (such as cancer or diabetes) that weakens the immune system are at greater risk.
“People in these groups should be particularly vigilant about avoiding romaine lettuce,” says Rogers.