It's safe to eat romaine lettuce, CDC says

Contaminated lettuce is now past its shelf life
by Maggie Fox /  / Updated 
Image: Romaine lettuces grow in a field
Romaine lettuces grow in a field.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters file

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It’s finally safe to eat romaine lettuce again.

Any romaine lettuce being sold now is almost certainly not from the Yuma, Arizona region and so unlikely to carry the E. coli bacteria strain that’s been making people sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The outbreak has made 172 people sick in 32 states, and one person has died, the CDC said. More cases may get reported, but the shelf-life of romaine lettuce is not long and no more is being harvested from the affected area.

The cases had been linked to lettuce that came from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.

“CDC is updating its advice to consumers. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the last shipments of romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region were harvested on April 16, 2018 and the harvest season is over,” the CDC said.

“It is unlikely that any romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region is still available in stores or restaurants due to its 21-day shelf life.”

The CDC said 20 people had developed a severe consequence of E. coli infection called hemolytic uremic syndrome. And 75 people have been sick enough to need hospitalization.

“It takes two to three weeks between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported to CDC. The most recent illnesses reported to CDC started when romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region was likely still available in stores, restaurants, and in peoples’ homes,” the CDC said.

It’s the worst outbreak of E. coli since 2006 when illnesses traced to spinach killed three and sickened more than 270.

The CDC estimates that foodborne illnesses affect 47.8 million people in the U.S. every year, putting 127,000 into the hospital and killing more than 3,000.

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