Lettuce lovers of Canada, rejoice: The great romaine scare of 2018 is officially over. But if you’re in the United States, it’s too early to know for sure. Unfortunately, the extent of E. coli contamination in romaine lettuce in the United States has yet to be determined.
The panic began when officials discovered that E. coli had contaminated all of eastern Canada’s romaine lettuce supply. Canadians were advised against buying or eating romaine lettuce until the outbreak could be contained and the source eradicated. Now, the ban on romaine has been lifted and the leaves will once again fill the shelves of Canadian stores.
In the United States, however, the vegetable may still not be safe. The E. coli outbreak in the United States continues to spread, with 15 states affected and 24 confirmed sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nine of those people have been hospitalized and one confirmed dead in the United States.
“The likely source of the outbreak in the United States appears to be leafy greens, but officials have not specifically identified a type of leafy greens eaten by people who became ill,” the CDC said in a release on January 10. “Leafy greens typically have a short shelf life, and since the last illness started a month ago, it is likely that contaminated leafy greens linked to this outbreak are no longer available for sale.”
Regardless of the CDC’s comforting assurance that our lettuce supply is safe, numerous health agencies have warned against purchasing the lettuce, insisting that although the CDC had not confirmed romaine as the source, there is more than enough reason to be cautious. The CDC does confirm that the E. coli strain affecting United States residents is closely related to the strain that struck Canada’s grocery stores.
This news is comforting, however, for those of us really craving the crunch of a Caesar salad. We could be nearing the end of this infamous food scare.