E. coli outbreaks in 15 states mean you probably shouldn't be eating romaine lettuce


Ironically for those with New Year's resolutions to eat healthy, 2018 starts with a warning to avoid salad.

Today, the Centers for Disease Control added Maryland and New Jersey to the list of 15 states – Florida isn't one of them! – experiencing outbreaks of E. coli from contaminated "leafy greens." The outbreaks were first reported in Canada, where officials have identified the culprit more specifically as romaine lettuce.

Alarmingly, the cases confirmed by CDC in the U.S. happened between Nov. 15 and Dec. 12.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, who serves on the congressional subcommittees that oversee funding for the CDC and FDA, issued a strongly worded letter this week to Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the CDC. “I continue to be deeply alarmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) response to the recent multistate outbreak of E. coli. CDC confirmed the outbreak on December 28 – almost a month and a half after the first infection,” said DeLauro.

States with active outbreaks of the bacteria in question are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

The CDC says that while it is too soon to declare the outbreak over in the U.S., it is possible that the leafy greens causing the outbreak are no longer in the food supply. But, while it's also unlikely that Floridians have tainted romaine in their fridges, it's not impossible. This strain of E. coli cannot be neutralized by washing, only by cooking, so if you have any, grill it till it's crispy or toss it.

As Bill Marler, a Seattle-based attorney specializing in food safety cases, said, “When in doubt, throw it out.”