People should avoid eating romaine lettuce amid an outbreak of a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria that has sickened 58 people in the US – including New York — and Canada, .
The consumer advocacy group called on the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do more to warn people about the dangerous outbreak.
Five people have been hospitalized in the US and one has died, according to the CDC. In Canada, one person has died.
In addition to New York, the affected states are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and Washington state.
Canadian health officials are advising people in the country’s eastern provinces to consider eating other types of salad greens until further notice.
In the US, health authorities are investigating the outbreaks, but have stopped short of recommending people avoid romaine lettuce or any other food.
However, Consumer Reports advised that just to be safe, consumers should avoid romaine lettuce until the cause is identified.
“Even though we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the US, a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is almost always consumed raw,” said James Rogers, director of food safety and research at Consumer Reports.
While anyone can get sick if they are infected with E. coli 0157:H7, young children, the elderly and anyone with conditions that weaken the immune system are at greater risk.
“People in these groups should be particularly vigilant about avoiding romaine lettuce,” Rogers said.
The CDC, which last reported on the outbreak on Dec. 28, said 17 people were sick in the 13 states dating back to November. The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported on 41 illnesses.
The virulent strain of E. coli produces a toxin that in some cases can lead to serious illness, kidney failure and even death.
Thorough cooking usually kills foodborne bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella, but lettuce is not usually cooked.