The Devil’s Lettuce

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Sabrina Liu

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Salad with a side of E. Coli is not what most Americans expected, it is, however, what they got. On November 26, 2018, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) declared romaine lettuce unsafe to eat due to an E. Coli outbreak linked to the food item. As of December 3, 2018, there have been 43 reported cases of E. Coli in this outbreak.

The CDC website states that the infected lettuce was grown in the “Central Coastal growing regions in northern and central California” which is a huge supplier of lettuce to both the United States as well as our neighboring country of Canada. The CDC suggests that buyers of lettuce check that their supplier is not one of the stated regions. If the lettuce bought is either from an unknown region or from one of the listed regions, the CDC states that the lettuce should be immediately disposed of.

A senior at Madison High School was interviewed on this subject by Madison Dodger Online. She eats healthily regularly and in doing so, lettuce has become a large part of her diet. When interviewed, the student stated that although she found E. Coli to be “cool”, she would not risk eating tainted lettuce. She has stated that she replaced what used to be lettuce in her meals with spinach which is of no trouble to her. As a matter of fact, she claims that spinach might be healthier for her than lettuce.

Many restaurants have had to pull items from their menu; especially salads. Madison Dodger Online recently visited the local Panera to further research this. We found that due to Panera’s large population of salads on their menu, many items were labeled “out of stock”. In addition to this, there were many indicators both physical and online that the lettuce was not safe to eat and would not be served for some time.

What is E. Coli exactly? According to Mayo Clinic, healthy people have E. Coli in their intestines normally. Most strains of E. Coli are completely harmless and others may cause mild diarrhea. So why such a big fuss over something that does not hurt anyone? This particular strain of E. Coli that is being found in romaine lettuce is far from harmless. The CDC estimated that 16 people have been hospitalized from O157: H7. In healthy people, the symptoms will generally pass within a week or so. The symptoms were diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting. However, for children and older adults, E. Coli can cause great complications. For this population, this strain can cause a fatal form of kidney failure entitled hemolytic uremic syndrome. Mayo Clinic suggests a doctor visit if the diarrhea is “persistent, severe, or bloody”. Though there is no current vaccination against E. Coli, researchers are working to find one to help prevent another outbreak. While there is no vaccination, there are steps to prevent yourself from getting E. Coli such as, not ingesting raw meat, drinking only pasteurized milk, orange juice, and cider, and washing fresh produce thoroughly. In addition to this, Mayo Clinic states that cross-contamination can also lead to the contraction of the disease seeing as it takes very little consumption of E. Coli in order for it to take hold.

Romain lettuce should be avoided until further notice from the CDC.

 

Sources:

“E. Coli.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 23 June 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/e-coli/symptoms-causes/syc-20372058.

“E.coli (Escherichia Coli).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Nov. 2018, www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2018/o157h7-11-18/index.html.

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