Here we go again: The Centers for Disease Control has issued a food safety alert for romaine lettuce today - the second this year - advising all consumers to avoid the greens due to an E. coli outbreak.
No one should eat or buy romaine lettuce for the time being as public health officials gather more information. The CDC recommends throwing away all romaine lettuce, including whole heads, hearts of romaine, and pre-cut salad mixes with romaine, such as Caesar salad and spring mix. Experts have not identified a common brand, grower, supplier, or distributor tied to the affected romaine lettuce just yet.
So far, 32 reported cases in 11 different states this October resulted in 13 hospitalizations. Canada's public health agency has identified another 18 cases in Ontario and Quebec. But the ongoing investigation could cause those numbers to rise.
What is E. coli?
E. coli (Escherichia coli) actually describes a diverse group of bacteria that normally lives in your intestines. Most kinds pose no harm and even contribute to healthy digestion, but a few strains can lead to illness when transmitted through food, water, or other people and animals.
The particular Shiga toxin-producing strain of E. coli (STEC) in this case is related to a 2017 outbreak in the U.S. that affected leafy greens, but not the other romaine lettuce outbreak earlier this year that killed five people, the CDC says.
What are the symptoms of an E. coli infection?
Most people fall ill about three to four days after ingesting the harmful bacteria. Commons signs of a STEC infection include:
- Severe stomach cramps
- Diarrhea (often bloody)
- Mild fever
If you're experiencing these symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider right away. While some infections go away within a week, other can become severe or even life-threatening.
What should I do to protect myself?
Throw away all and any romaine lettuce, include bags and boxes you've already eaten some of. If you have any doubt about whether a salad mix contains romaine, toss it in the trash just to be sure. It's not worth a potential hospitalization. Don't order any dishes containing romaine in restaurants and skip it at the store for now.
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/NrFOIxG8hx pic.twitter.com/FuzkHv4bd3- CDC (@CDCgov) November 20, 2018
Finally, take steps to sanitize your fridge. (It probably needs a deep-clean anyway.) Here's how, according to the CDC:
- Throw away recalled food and any other foods stored with it or touching it.
- Remove the other items in your fridge.
- Wash removable parts like shelves, drawers, and food containers with warm, soapy water.
- Wipe the inside of the empty fridge with warm, soapy water. Then wipe with a bleach solution (1 tablespoon added to 1 gallon of water) to sanitize. Finally, wipe with clean water.
- Return the shelves, drawers, and food. Wash your hands, counters, and any towels you used for drying.
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