During the past month or so, 58 people in the United States and Canada have fallen sick from eating romaine lettuce that contains a dangerous strain of the dreaded E. coli bacteria.
Americans in 13 states, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington state, have fallen victim to the tainted greens, Yahoo News reports.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that five people in the US have died as a result, and one death has been confirmed in Canada.
Authorities in Canada have identified romaine lettuce as the culprit in the country, and have advised people in its eastern provinces to refrain from eating this specific kind of vegetable until further notice.
In the US, health officials are looking into the outbreaks, but have not issued a warning on romaine lettuce or any other greens. Brittany Behm, a CDC spokesperson, said,
There is not enough epidemiologic evidence at this time to indicate a specific source of the illnesses in the United States. Although some sick people reported eating romaine lettuce, preliminary data available at this time shows they were not more likely than healthy people to have eaten romaine, based on a CDC food consumption survey.
The strain if E. coli involved produces a toxin that can lead to kidney failure, among other conditions, and at worst, death. Young children, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system as a result of a chronic disease such as diabetes or cancer, are particularly susceptible to infection.
Consumer Reports’ food safety experts are recommending that consumers avoid romaine lettuce until the cause of the outbreak has been fully investigated and the greens in question have been removed from store shelves.
James Rogers, director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports, said, “Even though we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is almost always consumed raw.”