Romaine lettuce linked to recent E. coli outbreak

Traces Of Toxic Chemical Found In California Lettuce
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

Over the past two months, an E. coli outbreak has affected a surprising number of people across the United States and Canada, leaving 58 people sick—with at least five hospitalizations and two deaths among those numbers, according to Consumer Reports.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is pointing a finger at romaine lettuce as the source of the E. coli outbreak in eastern Canada, and it recommends that the public choose other leafy greens for the time being.

canadian flag photo
Flickr | waferboard

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged Canadian health authorities’ findings, but since the CDC’s own investigation is ongoing, it has not yet advised Americans on their romaine lettuce consumption. Regardless of the ongoing investigation, Consumer Reports recommended Thursday that the American public turn to other greens for now.

centers for disease control photo
Getty Images | Kevin C. Cox

“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,” James Rogers, director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports, said in a notice from the nonprofit.

romaine lettuce photo
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

The Canadian investigation has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the E. coli outbreak, but the cause of contamination has not been determined. So, to be safe, Canadian officials are telling consumers to avoid romaine lettuce at this time.

“These illnesses indicate that contaminated romaine lettuce may still be on the market (including in restaurants, grocery stores and any establishments that serve food),” the Public Health Agency of Canada wrote in a public health notice recently. “Evidence suggests that there continues to be a risk of E. coli infections associated with the consumption of romaine lettuce.”


E. coli is a serious illness that can come with life-threatening symptoms, especially for those with weaker or compromised immune systems, such as children and the elderly. E. coli can cause nausea, fatigue, bloody diarrhea, cramps and vomiting, and it can lead to acute kidney failure in young children. Anyone exhibiting symptoms should get plenty of fluids and see a doctor as soon as possible if symptoms are serious.

Rucola Salad
Flickr | wuestenigel

In the meantime, it’s worth avoiding romaine lettuce (arugula, pictured above, can be a good substitute) and washing hands frequently.


According to the CDC, there were multi-state E. coli outbreaks in 2016 linked to three products: flour, beef and alfalfa sprouts.

flour photo
Flickr | Mel B.

While the beef and alfalfa sprout outbreaks were limited to several states, the flour outbreak affected 63 people in 24 states with 17 requiring hospitalization. The source is believed to be flour from a General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri.

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