Consumers Are Getting Conflicting Advice on Romaine Lettuce Safety Amid the Mysterious E. Coli Outbreak

April 20, 2018, 10:17 AM UTC

The U.S.’s mysterious E. coli outbreak now has a likely culprit: romaine lettuce grown around Yuma, Arizona. And consumers are being given conflicting advice on what to do to protect themselves.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday that any consumers in the U.S. who have store-bought chopped romaine lettuce should throw it away. If they want to buy romaine lettuce from now on, they should first check with the store or restaurant that it wasn’t grown in the Yuma region, the agencies said.

However, Consumer Reports has gone a step further, advising people to avoid all romaine lettuce for the time being. Why? Because people may find it difficult to establish for sure that their lettuce does not come from the growing region that’s suspected to be the source.

“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, the head of food safety at the non-profit-run magazine.

So far, the current outbreak has put at least 31 people in hospital. Five of those people have suffered kidney failure as a result of eating the bacterium. Nobody has died, though.

Most of the patients who were interviewed reported eating restaurant salads in the week before symptoms—which can include diarrhea and vomiting—started. “Romaine lettuce was the only common ingredient identified among the salads eaten,” the FDA said.

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