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Is it safe to eat romaine lettuce?

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Is it safe to eat romaine lettuce?
Photo © StockFood

Hail Caesar? If your salad contains romaine lettuce toss it, says US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This month an outbreak of E. coli hit eleven US states causing more than 30 people to fall ill, the outbreak also spread to Canada, with more than 20 identified cases of the infection discovered.

The US Food and Drug Administration has advised people to avoid eating any Romaine lettuce until the outbreak can be properly identified and contained. The FDA claims that the outbreak has traced back to California and links the outbreak to identified “growing and harvesting patterns”.

That Romaine lettuce, or cos, sas it is also known, is deemed the culprit after recent outbreaks of the same strain of E. coli in the US and Canada will prove a headache for producers and should see the Caesar salad disappear from menus, at least in the short term.

If you do have any Romaine lettuce in your fridge, you are advised to ditch it and sterilise the containers and fridge in which it was kept.

E. coli is a bacteria that is found in the intestines of humans and animals, some strains of which, particularly E. coli O157:H7, can cause severe food poisoning. Symptoms of E. coli appear between 1- 10 days of contracting the infection, usually from contaminated food or water and include diarrhoea, abdominal pain and dehydration. In extreme cases E. coli can cause kidney failure and an infection is particularly dangerous to the young, the old, pregnant women and the infirm. If any of the described symptoms are displayed, a medical professional should be contacted immediately.

Food poisoning cases related to lettuce have increased in recent years due to the increased sale of pre-chopped and bagged lettuce products. The plastic airtight packaging gives bacteria the perfect conditions in which to flourish, however, regardless of whether your romaine lettuce is pre-packaged, or a whole head, or indeed mixed salads that contain romaine, you are advised to bin it.

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