Checking out one of the local barbecue joints never sounded so good, as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported
a multi-state outbreak of E. coli stemming from romaine lettuce. The contaminated lettuce likely originated from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region.
Somehow, this outbreak has made its way across the country to Ohio, infecting 84 people in 19 states and hospitalizing 42.
Given that product labels often do not identify growing regions, the CDC recommends people not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless it can be confirmed it was not grown in Yuma, Arizona. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce.
The CDC report has also shown
that this outbreak is greatly effecting more women than men. In fact, somewhere between 50 to 60 percent of past E. coli outbreaks impacted women. A belief is that women tend to eat more romaine lettuce than men, but medical professionals are still unsure
on whether or not this is the driving factor.
However, the CDC has also shown that leafy vegetables were responsible
for 22 percent of foodborne illnesses between 1998 and 2008. We all know the dangers of eating raw meats, as pathogens like salmonella and E. coli need to be killed off during the food preparation process. However, as leafy greens are normally consumed raw, any sort of infestation remains a part of the greens making people sick.
After an outbreak in 2013, Modern Farmer
explained that “during harvest, workers core lettuce in the field, often with a knife soiled by pathogen-laden dirt. The plant then produces a milky latex that essentially traps any present pathogens in the plant.”
As bagged lettuce and salad mixes become increasingly popular along with a spike in plant-based diets, the process in which farmers clean salads can actually trap bacteria inside
the plants, where washing is of no help.
For the time being, we should probably all support local farmers
and make sure produce comes from a trusted source.