I would avoid salads this week if I were you. Romaine lettuce is the leading cause of the E.Coli outbreak that has affected over 58 people in the United States and Canada, leaving five hospitalized and one person dead. According to the CDC the infections have taken place in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington state along with Canada.
In Canada, Health authorities have advised citizens to avoid eating romaine lettuce until further notice. American health officials are still investigating but have not advised citizens to avoid the lettuce. A report by the Center of Disease Control states that the source of the bacteria has not been identified yet but state and local public health officials are currently conducting interviews to find out what they ate the week before they got sick.
According to Consumer Reports, this particular strain of E.Coli (0157:H7) has the ability to cause kidney failure or even death. Children, the elderly, and people with a weakened immune system are at a greater risk so they should be fairly careful if they are eating the leafy green.
As bad is it sounds, Brittany Behm, MPH, a CDC spokesperson states, "Here is not enough epidemiologic evidence at this time to indicate a specific source of the illnesses in the United States." Data shows that the infected were "not more likely than healthy people to have eaten romaine."
Some are criticizing the lack of warning from the CDC. Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union argues, "The FDA should follow the lead of the Canadian government and immediately warn the public about this risk."
While E.Coli is usually found in ground beef, greens like lettuce can take on the bacteria if the vegetables are contaminated with animal feces either in the field or washing water.
Symptoms of E.Coli include bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, slight fever and vomiting. If you feel that you have been affected, please consult a medical professional immediately. Since no source has been named yet, the Director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports, James Rogers, Ph.D., suggests that people should avoid all romaine lettuce until the source is identified.