Lettuce (Not) Give Thanks: The E. coli Outbreak Disrupting Your Post-Turkey Day Salad Plans

With the exception of Bon Appétit’s Staff, few people are likely to consider salads an integral part of the Thanksgiving Meal. It’s not that salads aren’t lovely — they are. It’s just that lettuce has 364 other days of the year to shine — not only in salads, but as an accoutrement to the pride of Thanksgiving leftovers:  turkey sandwiches.

But this year all that is in jeopardy, as a nationwide outbreak of E. coli has been linked to romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley area of California.

The news of the outbreak came Friday with the release of a health warning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:  check your vegetable crispers. The outbreak has so far sickened 40 people in 16 states, with an investigation pointed to romaine lettuce grown in one of the most productive agricultural regions in our state. The first illnesses began at the end of September, with the latest on November 10. 

The investigation into the exact source of the E. coli contaminated lettuce is ongoing, bet laboratory tests performed by the Maryland Department of Health point to the Salinas Valley. The strain that sickened people is closely linked genetically to the strain they found on romaine grown in the region. The link appeared strong enough to prompt both the CDC and the FDA to sound the alarm. 

Retailers and consumers are being urged to check the labels on their romaine lettuce, and to not sell and/or eat any lettuce harvested from the Salinas Valley region.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention included the following in their warning on Friday.

  • This advice includes all types of romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and packages of precut lettuce and salad mixes which contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.

  • If you have romaine lettuce at home:
    • Look for a label showing where the romaine lettuce was grown. It may be printed on the package or on a sticker.
    • If the label says “Salinas” (whether alone or with the name of another location), don’t eat it, and throw it away.
    • If it isn’t labeled with a growing region, don’t eat it, and throw it away.
    • If you don’t know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, don’t eat it, and throw it away.
    • Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine lettuce was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.

  • If you are buying romaine lettuce at a store:
    • Look for a label showing where the romaine lettuce was grown. It may be printed on the package or on a sticker.
    • If the label says “Salinas” (whether alone or with the name of another location), don’t buy it.
    • If it isn’t labeled with a growing region, don’t buy it.

A number of products containing romaine lettuce in some form have been recalled. For a current list of these products, you may visit the USDA website.

coli is a nasty infection with an unenviable list of symptoms. Signs of the illness often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. “Some people may have a fever, which usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/38.5˚C). Most people get better within 5 to 7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.”

“Most people with a STEC (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli) infection start feeling sick 3 to 4 days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria. However, illnesses can start anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure. Contact your healthcare provider if you have diarrhea that lasts for more than 3 days or diarrhea that is accompanied by a fever higher than 102˚F, blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine.”

(Source:  CDC’s dedicated E. coli page.)

Thanksgiving is definitely not the ideal time to have a recall of contaminated lettuce, but when in doubt:  throw it out. A turkey sandwich or salad with a side of E. coli is not worth the risk.

Have a serious injury and need legal advice?
Contact Howard Blau.

Ventura County’s Favorite Law Office

Check Out These References for Further Reading:

Outbreak of E. coli Infections Linked to Romaine Lettuce.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 24 November 2019.

E. coli (Escherichia coli):  Symptoms.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 24 November 2019.

C.D.C. Issues E. Coli Warning on Romaine Lettuce Ahead of Thanksgiving.” The New York Times. Retrieved 24 November 2019.

Romaine lettuce recalled nationwide due to E. coli bacteria outbreak.” Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 November 2019.

Don’t eat romaine lettuce from California’s Salinas Valley, CDC warns.” The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 November 2019.

2019-11-25T11:39:40-08:00November 25th, 2019|Food Recall, Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Safety|0 Comments