The Today Show announced on Thursday that people should not buy or consume romaine lettuce right now. U.S. and Canadian health officials are currently investigating the source of an E. coli infection outbreak that is in connection to Romaine lettuce consumption, Consumer Reports says.
The group is urging that the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) be more adamant about warning people about this outbreak. Today reports that at least 58 people have gotten sick across the country and in Canada. Sadly, one person has died.
The CDC last reported on the outbreak on December 28. At that time, it said 17 people were sick in 13 states. The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported 41 illnesses.
“The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada,” the CDC said in its Dec. 28 statement.
“In the United States, state and local public health officials are interviewing sick people to determine what they ate in the week before their illness started. CDC is still collecting information to determine whether there is a food item in common among sick people, including leafy greens and romaine,” it added.
The report continued, “Because we have not identified a source of the infections, CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food.”
Cooking thoroughly generally kills foodborne bacteria, such as E. coli or salmonella. Of course, lettuce isn’t usually cooked.
“Even though we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that romaine lettuce is almost always consumed raw,” said James Roger, food safety director at Consumer Reports.
Consumers Union’s Jean Halloran said people should get stronger warnings.
“The FDA should follow the lead of the Canadian government and immediately warn the public about this risk,” she said.
“The available data strongly suggest that romaine lettuce is the source of the U.S. outbreak. If so, and people aren’t warned, more may get sick.”
While Health officials can’t say for sure that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreaks in the U.S., Consumer Reports is warning people to avoid eating the raw lettuce for now.
“Whole genome sequencing is being performed on samples of bacteria making people sick in the United States to give us information about whether these illnesses are related to the illnesses in Canada. Preliminary results show that the type of E. coli making people sick in both countries is closely related genetically, meaning the ill people are more likely to share a common source of infection,” the CDC said.
Consumer Reports is advising people to err on the side of caution. They’re instructing people to throw away romaine lettuce.
“Neither the U.S. nor Canadian health officials have provided information on where the romaine lettuce potentially involved in the illnesses was grown or processed, so for now, Consumer Reports says consumers should assume that any romaine lettuce, even when sold in bags and packages, could possibly be contaminated,” it advised.
“Do not buy romaine lettuce and don’t use any that you may have in your refrigerator until there is more information on the source of contamination. Consumers should also check salad blends and mixes, and avoid those that contain romaine.”