CDC: Now We Know Where All the Tainted Romaine Is Coming From
Good news, salad-lovers! The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally figured out where the latest E. coli outbreak came from. On Monday night, the CDC announced that the romaine lettuce responsible for the outbreak came from the Central Coastal growing regions of northern and central California. So if you have romaine from there, throw it out. And if you don’t know where your romaine came from … throw it out.
This announcement came six days after the CDC cautioned consumers in the US and Canada to against eating any romaine lettuce. Now that the public health office has narrowed its warning, you can commence with your Caesar salads and buffalo chicken wraps — as long as you can trace the origin of your romaine lettuce. Since the initial announcement, the official case count has risen to 43 reported cases in 12 states, including 16 hospitalizations. The bacteria responsible for this outbreak is Escherichia coli O157:H7 — E. coli O157:H7 for short. This strain can cause serious complications for people with weaker immune systems.
Click here to learn more about the symptoms of E. coli food poisoning.
The reason E. coli O157:H7 can be dangerous for some people is that it produces a substance known as shiga toxin, which can result in bloody feces and potentially kidney damage — a diagnosis known as hemolytic uremic syndrome. Doctors warn that even though E. coli is a bacterial infection, it should not be treated with antibiotics, as they may increase the risk of hemolytic uremic syndrome.
At this point you may be remembering the last E. coli outbreak from this spring and wondering Why the heck does this keep happening? The answer, according to a September investigation by Reveal News, is that the US Food and Drug Administration loosened its rules on water testing for farmers. A rule requiring farmers to test irrigation water was scheduled to go into effect this year, but the FDA under President Donald Trump gave in to pressure from the farm lobby and shelved the rule for another four years.
As a result of lax rules around irrigation water, fecal material and other contaminants can make their way onto food crops undetected. Five people died in the spring from the E. coli outbreak, and while no deaths have been reported this fall, the CDC has not yet closed its investigation.
For now, as long as you can confirm your romaine lettuce didn’t come from the affected area, you’re good to go. But hey, with the weather turning colder and the days getting shorter, it’s not like you were going to have a salad for dinner anyway.