Grocery Shoppers Beware: Romaine Lettuce Containing E. Coli
Approximately 61% of shoppers want their produce department to store more local products, but shoppers need to be more concerned about foodborne illnesses as a result of purchasing some of these certain grocery items.
According to CNBC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a nationwide E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce. There have been 53 cases of E. coli outbreaks across 16 states and 31 of those outbreaks resulted in hospitalization.
The CDC is warning states that all store-bought chopped romaine lettuce, including salads and mixes with romaine, should not be eaten and needs to be thrown away.
“Consumer Reports is making this recommendation given the potentially fatal consequences of E. coli, the fact that there are still several unknowns about this outbreak and that no type of romaine has been ruled definitively safe by government officials,” said James Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.
CNN Health adds that vegetables are to blame for the majority of foodborne illnesses. Soil is evaluated on two basic features: texture and fertility, but any bit of compromised soil can lead to serious food-related illnesses.
Every year, one in six Americans gets sick from food, and 128,000 people are so sick they have to go to the hospital due to serious vomiting and diarrhea issues as well as severe nausea.
Though grocery shoppers need to be fully aware of what they are purchasing, that doesn’t mean individuals should avoid eating fruits and vegetables altogether.
“When properly cleaned, separated, cooked, and stored to limit contamination, fruits and vegetables safely provide some essential nutrients that would otherwise be lacking in most American diets,” officials from CDC wrote.
In order to combat this concerning outbreak, a coalition of five produce industry groups was working to identify where the problem started. The team found that the E. coli-infected lettuce stems from Yuma, Arizona, where the majority of the product is grown between November and March.
“Leafy greens food-safety programs in both California and Arizona are the most rigorous in today’s produce industry,” the produce groups said. “Both programs include mandatory farm food safety practices, and frequent government audits to ensure those practices are being followed.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released new food safety requirements. The draft proposals are the first food safety rules to be proposed in 70 years, and they will allow the FDA to take a more preventative role in dealing with food contamination, rather than strictly reactionary.
The new proposals will require much stricter standards for growing, harvesting, and storing produce items as well as increase sanitation methods for irrigation fields. It will also increase surveillance for machines used in soils like fertilizers and manure.
In order to avoid E. coli, thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables, cook meat completely, avoid raw milk, wash your hands regularly, and avoid preparing food when you’re sick. If you believe you came in contact with E. coli, write down when you recently consumed and contact your doctor and local health department.
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