Consumer Reports’ food safety experts are advising consumers to stop eating romaine lettuce while the source of a series of recent E. coli bacteria infections is investigated.
According to an article on consumerrports.org, 58 people in the U.S. and Canada have become ill over the past seven weeks from a dangerous strain of the bacteria. The infections have occurred in 13 states, including Washington state.
Five people have been hospitalized and one has died in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and there also has been a death in Canada.
Canadian health authorities identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak north of the border and advised people, especially in the eastern provinces, to eat other types of salad greens until further notice.
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The CDC is still investigating the source of the outbreak in the U.S. and has not yet advised people to avoid romaine lettuce. But Consumer Reports has.
“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 lettuce is almost always consumed raw,” James Rogers, Ph.D., Director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports, said in the article.
According to Consumer Reports, the strain being investigated is E. coli (0157:H7), a foodborne pathogen which produces a toxin that can lead to serious illness, kidney failure and even death. While anyone can get sick from the bacteria, the young, elderly and anyone who has a weakened immune system are at greater risk.