It's safe to eat romaine lettuce again, but check labels: FDA

November 27, 2018 by E.j. Mundell, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)— Caesar salad fans, rest easy: It's safe to eat romaine lettuce again.

Just be sure to check the , to avoid any chance of E. coli, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now says.

In a statement released late Monday, FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced that the agency was lifting its advisory against eating , first put in place last Tuesday.

At that point, the agency hadn't been able to narrow down the source of the tainted , Gottlieb explained. But now the source seems to be "end of season" lettuce, harvested somewhere in the Central Coast regions of central and northern California.

And, "harvesting of romaine lettuce from this region has [already] ended for the year," Gottlieb noted.

So, starting as early as this week, romaine lettuce sold in stores will carry labels listing the region where the produce was grown, along with its harvest date, the FDA said. By checking these labels, consumers can quickly determine that the produce is safe to eat.

"Romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California does not appear to be related to the current outbreak," Gottlieb stressed.

That would include romaine farmed in Arizona, Florida and Mexico, as well as California's Imperial Valley—lettuce harvested from these areas is OK to eat.

"Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be related to the current outbreak," Gottlieb added. "There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine harvested from these sources."

If heads of romaine are sold loose, without affixed labels, retailers are being asked to post a notice showing place and date of harvest near the store register.

Such labeling may become standard going forward, according to an agreement between the FDA and the leafy greens industry, the agency said.

So far, 43 people across 12 states have been sickened in this latest outbreak of E. coli, with onset in the last case occurring on Oct. 31.

Twenty-two more cases have been reported in Canada. No deaths have yet been reported in the outbreak.

"Through laboratory studies we have identified that theE. coliO157:H7 strain causing the outbreak is similar to one that produced an outbreak ofE. coliO157:H7 in thefall of 2017 that also occurred in the U.S. and Canada, which was associated with consumption of leafy greens in the U.S. and specifically lettuce in Canada," Gottlieb said.

So who's most at risk from E. coli?

Dr. Robert Glatter is an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City who's seen the effects of infection with the gastrointestinal bug firsthand. It's not a minor ailment, he said.

"In general, symptoms of E. coli infection generally begin about three to four days after consuming the bacteria, and may include abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and watery or bloody diarrhea, along with fever," Glatter said.

And while who battle a bout of E. coli typically recover within five to seven days, the illness can be more protracted—and even deadly—for people already made vulnerable by chronic disease or advanced age.

"People with diabetes, or those with cancer or autoimmune disease run the risk of a more severe illness," Glatter explained.

The particular strain of E. coli detected in the current lettuce outbreak—E. coli O157:H7—is particularly nasty, he noted.

"Most strains of E. coli do not actually cause diarrhea, but E. coli O157 produces a powerful toxin that injures the inner lining of the small intestine, leading to bloody diarrhea," Glatter said. Even a tiny amount of ingested bacteria could spur this type of illness.

"It can make people much more ill, and may lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, in some cases," he said.

Indeed, the CDC has reported one such case already in the latest outbreak.

In many cases, antibiotics are used to help beat back an E. coli infection, but these drugs can affect the kidneys, Glatter noted.

"Antibiotics may be necessary in certain cases, so it's important to see your doctor if you have continued and severe symptoms such as fever, bloody diarrhea, and you are not able to eat or drink," he said.

However, in the case of E. coli O157:H7, "taking antibiotics may actually increase your risk of developing kidney failure, so it's important to speak with your health care provider if you should develop severe symptoms," Glatter advised.

And if you do think you might be sick with E. coli, or any other foodborne illness, make sure you don't spread it to those near you.

The bacterium "can be transmitted person-to-person, so it's vital that anyone who is potentially infected wash their hands thoroughly and not share utensils, cups or glasses," Glatter said. "This also goes for bath towels. Linens also need to be washed in hot water and treated with bleach."

He noted that "ground beef, unpasteurized milk, fresh produce and contaminated water are common sources of E. coli bacteria."

Explore further: E. coli-tainted romaine lettuce threatens the frail, sick most

More information: Find out more about E. coli illness at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Related Stories

E. coli-tainted romaine lettuce threatens the frail, sick most

November 21, 2018
(HealthDay)—U.S. health officials have warned all Americans to stay away from romaine lettuce this holiday season, due to potential contamination with E. coli.

Americans, Canadians are warned not to eat romaine lettuce (Update)

November 20, 2018
Health officials in the U.S. and Canada told people Tuesday to stop eating romaine lettuce because of a new E. coli outbreak.

Arizona romaine lettuce tied to nationwide E. coli outbreak: CDC

April 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—You may want to think twice about that Caesar salad.

Irrigation water likely cause of romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak

July 3, 2018
(HealthDay)—Tainted irrigation water is likely to blame for a 36-state Escherichia coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce that sickened 200 people and caused five deaths, U.S. health officials say.

Tainted lettuce in US sickens 98 (Update)

April 27, 2018
An outbreak of E. coli bacteria in romaine lettuce has almost doubled in size over the past week, sickening 98 people in 22 states, US health officials said on Friday.

CDC broadens romaine lettuce warning as E. coli outbreak continues

April 23, 2018
(HealthDay)—In the wake of an E. coli outbreak that has made more than 50 people in 16 states sick, Americans are now being warned to toss out any romaine lettuce they might have bought in a grocery store.

Recommended for you

RNA processing and antiviral immunity

December 14, 2018
The RIG-I like receptors (RLRs) are intracellular enzyme sentries that detect viral infection and initiate a first line of antiviral defense. The cellular molecules that activate RLRs in vivo are not clear.

Faster test for Ebola shows promising results in field trials

December 13, 2018
A team of researchers with members from the U.S., Senegal and Guinea, in cooperation with Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), has developed a faster test for the Ebola virus than those currently in use. In their paper published ...

Drug targets for Ebola, Dengue, and Zika viruses found in lab study

December 13, 2018
No drugs are currently available to treat Ebola, Dengue, or Zika viruses, which infect millions of people every year and result in severe illness, birth defects, and even death. New research from the Gladstone Institutes ...

Urbanisation and air travel leading to growing risk of pandemic

December 13, 2018
Increased arrivals by air and urbanisation are the two main factors leading to a growing vulnerability to pandemics in our cities, a University of Sydney research team has found.

Researchers discover new interactions between Ebola virus and human proteins

December 13, 2018
Several new connections have been discovered between the proteins of the Ebola virus and human host cells, a finding that provides insight on ways to prevent the deadly Ebola virus from reproducing and could lead to novel ...

Faecal transplants, 'robotic guts' and the fight against deadly gut bugs

December 13, 2018
A simple compound found in our gut could help to stop dangerous bacteria behind severe, and sometimes fatal, hospital infections.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.