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The Romaine Lettuce Alarm: E. coli, the CDC, and this Thanksgiving

Yesterday the CDC issued a national alarm that no store should sell, and no family should buy or eat Romaine lettuce, effective immediately.

The alarm was sounded nationally because over 30 people who ate Romaine lettuce in 11 states got infected with a dangerous type of bacteria, a subset of the E. coli family of bacteria, that can cause bloody diarrhea, and/or kidney failure. Of the over 2 dozen people infected, 11 got admitted and 1 has kidney failure.

The alarm was sounded nationally because as of right now, the sources of all the Romaine lettuce contaminated with the dangerous E. coli strain is not known.

And so, until all sources are known, all sources must be suspected.

We support the caution the CDC has issued, let’s not eat Romaine lettuce this Thanksgiving.

But in a note of reassurance, of the millions of Americans who eat Romaine lettuce every day, only 30+ people have gotten infected, so far, maybe that number will climb, but even if 200 people are found infected, the chance if you ate Romaine lettuce that you will get sick is very, very, very unlikely.

Further, the CDC is quite adept at finding sources, and usually does.  If it does, we will find a select number of farms where all the E. coli contaminated Romaine lettuce came from, and that will then allow us to feel fine about eating Romaine lettuce from the other farms- if all the sources are indeed identified.

BOTTOM LINE

Stay tuned, hopefully not many more people will be found infected, and all the sources will be found so that other farms can be trusted to have clean Romaine.

Meanwhile, until we know where the contamination is coming from, makes sense to not eat Romaine lettuce.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Dr. Arthur Lavin

 

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