Consumer Reports: Avoid romaine lettuce during E. coli outbreak

WASHINGTON — People who plan on eating healthier this year might want to re-evaluate their choice of leafy greens.

Consumer Reports’ food safety experts recommend avoiding consuming romaine lettuce during an outbreak of E. coli in the U.S. and Canada.

There have been 17 reported cases of illnesses in 13 states, including Virginia, between Nov. 15 and Dec. 8, 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration have yet to determine the cause of the outbreak in the U.S., but Canadian health officials have determined romaine lettuce as the source of the 41 outbreaks of E. coli throughout Canada’s eastern provinces.

It is likely that those who are sick in both countries share a common source of infection, said the CDC in a news release.

While the CDC gave no recommendations on whether people should avoid a particular food, Consumer Reports is advising that people should not consume romaine lettuce until the cause of the outbreak is identified.

“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,” said James Rogers, director of food safety and research at Consumer Reports.

Rogers said it’s best to assume that any romaine lettuce may be contaminated, even if it’s sold in bags and packages.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection (stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting) occur one to three days after eating food contaminated with the bacteria.

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