For the second time since January, it’s time to throw out all chopped romaine after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported it could be tainted with E. coli.
The CDC warned this week that the nationwide E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from Yuma, Ariz., has now expanded to 53 cases in 16 states. As a result, they caution that all store-bought chopped romaine lettuce, including salad mixes containing romaine, should not be eaten. Even if someone has already eaten some and not gotten sick, the lettuce should still be thrown away to be on the safe side, as USA Today notes. The CDC also says that if you are eating at a restaurant and you can’t determine if the romaine is from the Yuma area or not, do not eat it.
The most recent outbreak, which started March 13, has resulted in 31 hospitalizations. That includes five people who developed a type of kidney failure. There have been no deaths so far.
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In an earlier outbreak this year, 59 people in the U.S. and Canada became ill from a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria connected to romaine.
This time around, Pennsylvania is the hardest-hit state with 12 cases, followed by Idaho with 10. New Jersey, Montana and Arizona are among the other states affected. About 70% of those sick are women or girls, as CNBC reports.
The CDC points out that the E. coli spreading through the states is “toxin-producing.” People tend to get sick within two to eight days of eating the germ, which causes diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting. Most recover within one week but there is a chance of kidney failure.
The methods of prevention are clear, notes CNBC. To avoid E. coli, wash your hands regularly, cook meat thoroughly, wash all fruits and vegetables, avoid raw milk and don’t prepare food when you’re sick. If you get sick, write down what you’ve eaten, contact your doctor and report your illness to your local health department.
It should also be noted that washing your romaine leaves thoroughly will not eliminate the problem as the bacteria can cling to nooks and crannies in the lettuce, as Consumer Reports notes. So, once again, clean all the romaine lettuce out of your fridge.