Do not eat romaine lettuce.

At all.

In case you somehow missed it, romaine lettuce has been causing a lot of problems over the last couple of months because of the bacteria E. coli. But right now, the CDC is investigating a multi-state outbreak and has declared the lettuce unsafe to eat in any form. However, they are trying to get to the bottom of what’s going on, the FDA is even making a special effort to test romaine for contamination across the country.

But, if you have any romaine lettuce, throw it away. This new outbreak is being caused by a very dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria.

“The CDC told consumers to throw away any romaine lettuce they may already have purchased. Restaurants should not serve it, stores should not sell it, and people should not buy it, no matter where or when the lettuce was grown. It doesn’t matter if it is chopped, whole head or part of a mix.

…The CDC is not claiming that all romaine contains the dangerous bacteria — something the millions of people who have eaten the popular lettuce recently should bear in mind — but investigators don’t know precisely where, when or how the contamination happened.”1

While thankfully no one has died in this outbreak, the CDC does report that 32 people in 11 states have become sick from eating the lettuce and of those, 13 have been hospitalized. And one patient suffered a form of kidney failure. There have also been 18 cases of the same strain reported in Ontario and Quebec.

“The agency also advised consumers to wash and sanitize drawers and shelves where the lettuce was stored. People usually become sick within three or four days of consuming lettuce contaminated with the E. coli, according to the CDC.”2

In January and May, we wrote about what became known as the “Yuma outbreak,” where five people died and 210 people got sick in 36 states, but this outbreak does not seem to be connected. Although it’s happening at roughly the same time as last year and the strain of E. coli has the same genetic fingerprint.

A couple things to know about E. coli:3

  • it’s a bacteria found in the intestines of animals
  • can contaminate a wide variety of agricultural products
  • you can be infected with E. coli and report no symptoms
  • the illness can be spread from person to person through direct contact
  • all three outbreaks — the current one, the one from Yuma and the one from last year — are caused by contamination of an E. coli strain known as O157:H7 which produces a Shiga toxin that in severe cases can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
  • symptoms include severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting
  • those who do get sick from E. coli usually recover without complications in 5 to 10 days

According to Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, food is safer now that it has ever been (uhhhhhh, not sure I would agree with that) and that while it might seem like there has been an increase in outbreaks it’s only because they are better at identifying them. Sure Scott, whatever it takes to help you sleep at night.

Maybe one solution is to grow your own lettuce. Or just buy from your local farm at the farmers market. 


  1. The Washington Post
  2. The Washington Post
  3. The Washington Post