Just when we thought our salad woes were behind us, more people in the U.S. and Canada have fallen ill after eating romaine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a bulletin on November 20 warning consumers in the U.S. to avoid the lettuce at all costs due to a new outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. So far, there have been 32 reported cases of the illness and 13 hospitalizations (including one kidney failure) in 11 states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin) as a result of this outbreak.
The Public Health Agency of Canada published its own release identifying 18 sick people with the same DNA fingerprint of E. coli (O157:H7) in Ontario and Quebec. Six people have been hospitalized and one person has experienced kidney failure. There have been no reported deaths in the U.S. or Canada.
The CDC says that no type of romaine is safe, including whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine and bags or boxes of precut lettuce and salad mix that contain it, such as baby romaine, spring mix and Caesar salad. People who have the lettuce in their possession are advised to throw it away immediately. Restaurants, fast food joints and other retailers should follow suit.
Although this is the same strain of E. coli that rocked the nation earlier this year, the CDC says it is not related to the same grower in Yuma, Arizona. A specific source of contamination has not been identified, so consumers should avoid the leafy green in all forms to avoid potential stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, high fevers and vomiting. Most people will recover within five to seven days, but the infection could become severe and even fatal.
Michael Droke, an expert in agriculture and cooperative law for the international firm Dorsey and Whitney, says this new outbreak won’t just be a huge loss for romaine, but for other lettuces too. In an email statement provided to The Daily Meal via his publicist, he said, “A recall of this magnitude especially during the holiday week will impact not only romaine, but other leafy green vegetables such as spinach. Retailers will be pulling romaine and possibly all other lettuce/leafy greens from their shelves (a process called quarantining) until the source is found.”
While the timing may seem off due to the upcoming food-heavy holidays, we should rejoice in the fact that leafy green salad is not a traditional Thanksgiving food. In fact, there are plenty of other salads that aren’t actually salad — and we ranked them all from worst to best.