The USDA is telling the entire country to completely avoid all romaine lettuce until they find the source of a recent E. coli outbreak.
Any romaine lettuce could be a deadly disease vector, according to the USDA and the CDC. If the product contains romaine, whether it be pre-mixed salads, a restaurant-purchased caesar, or a fresh head of lettuce, is a potential carrier for E. coli bacteria.
All types of romaine, “such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad,” is potentially hazardous, according to the CDC’s most recent update.
The CDC is calling for everyone to throw out their romaine lettuce until the source of the outbreak is found. So far, 32 people have been infected in 11 states, with the first infection reported as early as October 8th. The Canadian Public Health Agency also reports 18 additional cases from residents of Ontario and Quebec.
All evidence points to romaine lettuce as the culprit. However, the CDC is still trying to narrow down the specific supplier. Until then, any piece of romaine could be carrying the bacteria.
So far, the CDC has found "no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce” as the source of the E. coli outbreak. The Center continues to investigate as more cases are reported.
Outbreak Alert: Do not eat any romaine lettuce, including whole heads and hearts, chopped, organic and salad mixes with romaine until we learn more. If you don’t know if it’s romaine or can’t confirm the source, don’t eat it. https://t.co/gBp5RXnfvu pic.twitter.com/lsZrhQDzjI— USDA Food Safety (@USDAFoodSafety) November 20, 2018
Even lettuce purchased as recently as October 30th (which would be a very long-lasting head of lettuce could still potentially be a vector, as CDC reports often take between 2 to 3 weeks to filter into the agency.
Although no deaths have been reported, half of the recorded cases have resulted in a hospitalizations. One infection resulted in hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
E. coli is definitely a bug you don’t’ want to mess with. Any romaine in your fridge should be tossed out until the CDC has found the source of the outbreak. Switch to another lettuce, like iceberg or green leaf lettuce. Maybe even arugula if you’re feeling adventurous.