Bad News for Salad Fans: E. coli Strikes Again!
If you’ve been plotting a way to avoid the healthier options on the Thanksgiving table to focus on the pumpkin pie, you’re in luck! The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a massive alert about contaminated lettuce, just in time to complicate Thanksgiving plans for salad fans.
Like the other lettuce scare that took place earlier this year, this safety alert concerns romaine lettuce, a common variety that it seen in everything from Caesar salads to hamburger garnishes. The issue behind the new warning is a common culprit: E. coli.
E. coli Strikes Again
Formally called Escherichia coli, E. coli is a type of bacteria. It is commonly found in the intestines of healthy people and animals, and is not always a health risk. However, certain strains of E. coli can lead to unpleasant symptoms.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bloody stools
- Abdominal pain, cramping, or tenderness
While not a pleasant experience, E. coli is not fatal for most people. But for young children, elderly people, and people with compromised immune systems, the illness can lead to dangerous complications.
What Causes E. coli?
While E. coli can spread through person-to-person contact, contaminated food and water is the biggest cause. Beef is a common culprit, as E. coli can still lurk in the intestines of slaughtered and processed cattle. Fresh produce is also especially vulnerable to E. coli, as runoff from nearby cattle farms can contaminated growing fields. In the recall earlier this year, runoff from a nearby cattle farm was the likely cause.
It’s unclear what is causing this newest health alert or where it is coming from. There have been 32 cases of reported illness across 11 states, including 13 cases that required hospitalization. No deaths have been reported as a result of the outbreak, although one patient suffered from kidney failure. There have also been 18 reports of illnesses in Canada.
Dealing with the Latest Warning
Since the issue is not linked to a specific area, the CDC’s warning is for ALL types of romaine lettuce. This includes:
- Whole heads of romaine
- Hearts of romaine
- Bags of precut lettuce
- Salad mixes that might contain romaine
The CDC urges consumers to purchasing or eating romaine lettuce until a cause is identified. Even if the lettuce looks fine, it is still important to follow the CDC’s instructions, as E. coli is not always readily visible.
For people who do become sick after eating lettuce, the CDC recommends seeking any necessary medical treatment. They also suggest reporting the illness to a local health department or public health investigator. By reporting their illness and providing a list of foods they consumed before becoming sick, E. coli victims can help bring insights into the outbreak, what is causing at, and what brands or areas it might be affecting.
While plenty of people might be okay with an excuse to avoid eating a salad, this new outbreak is something to take seriously. So until this outbreak has been contained, be safe about what’s in your fridge and avoid that salad until the outbreak is over.
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