Published: Fri, January 05, 2018
Health Care | By Alberto Manning

Consumer Reports Says You Should Avoid Romaine Lettuce

Consumer Reports Says You Should Avoid Romaine Lettuce

Feds are trying to get to the bottom of a risky E. coli outbreak spreading across the USA and Canada that seems tied to romaine lettuce, and food-safety experts say that until they do, it's probably smart to just stop eating it. In the USA, the infections have occurred in 13 states including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and Washington state.

According to Consumer Reports, the risky strain of bacteria has sent five people to the hospital and killed one person in the U.S. Another patient reportedly died of the illness in Canada, where the source of the bacteria was tracked down to the leafy greens. However, several of the USA cases have been caused by a bacterium with the same genetic "fingerprint" as the one in Canada. The CDC said, however, in its release that because it had not yet identified a source of the infections, it was unable to recommend whether USA residents should avoid a particular food.

"Whole genome sequencing is being performed on samples of bacteria making people sick in the United States to give us information about whether these illnesses are related to the illnesses in Canada". The most unsafe effect is hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure.

Even though US authorities can't say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce caused the outbreak, Consumer Reports urged a "greater degree of caution", about the lettuce because it's usually consumed raw. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet determined the cause of the outbreak in the U.S.

Last week, Canada's Public Health Agency identified romaine lettuce as the origin of the country's outbreak.

"There is not enough epidemiologic evidence at this time to indicate a specific source of the illnesses in the United States", CDC spokesperson Brittany Behm told Consumer Reports on Wednesday.

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As a result, the nonprofit consumer magazine said its "food safety experts are advising that consumers stop eating romaine lettuce until the cause of the outbreak is identified and the offending product is removed from store shelves".

Consumer Reports said people should err on the side of caution and throw out romaine lettuce.

"This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available", the CDC said.

"The available data strongly suggest that romaine lettuce is the source of the USA outbreak".

While washing any greens may help avoid some illnesses, Consumer Reports warns that it may not get rid of all E. coli bacteria that may be present. Infections with E. coli O157 can be life-threatening, especially for the elderly, the very young and immune-compromised people, such as cancer patients, Williams said.

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