So today’s topic: E. coli!
Why does it seem to target our fave foods (and restaurants)? And how do we REALLY know when it’s safe to eat romaine lettuce again?
WHY does E. coli like lettuce, especially romaine, so dang much?? This is the third romaine outbreak this year, and up to 30% of people who get E. coli got it from eating bad veggies. Isn’t that crazy?
Well, not really, when you think about it…Here’s the explanation:
Lettuce needs a LOT of water to grow, right?
So, often, E. coli originates from a farm nearby the lettuce field. What’s it doing on the farm? Bacteria likes to grow in animal intestines…(I’m sorry, I know you didn’t want to know that, but obviously 99.9999% of meat is safe!)
So it’s easy for that contamination to spread to the dirt/water on the farmland…so that nearby IRRIGATED CROPS become contaminated, like lettuce.
Another weird source of E. coli? (I know, the cow intestines thing was weird enough for one blog post.) Birds pooping on top of the field!
What Does All This Mean?
Should we be deathly afraid of bird poop? Deathly afraid of meat? Or lettuce?
E. coli is actually a really common, normal thing, 99% of the time. Benign forms of E. coli live harmlessly in animal guts…which includes YOUR gut!
There’s just a certain strain of E. coli that’s dangerous because it produces a toxin known as shiga toxin, which usually causes cramps and vomiting for a week or so. (That’s of course the case with this romaine lettuce recall.)
Also, young children and the elderly are most at risk for developing complications like kidney failure.
This is all scary stuff, especially when you consider how MANY possible sources of contamination there are. It’s definitely not limited to farms; lettuce can easily get E. coli from the packing plant, where workers, equipment, and other products could all potentially spread this bacteria to the lettuce.
But I Can’t Stop Eating Veggies!
You don’t have to stop. (And please don’t, that would be bad!)
I understand why the news was going crazy over the romaine lettuce recall, but if you really put this issue in perspective, there’s no reason to be afraid of your lettuce. For the last ten years, on average, the amount of sickness caused by leafy greens has been a little over 200 people per year. (In the USA.)
That’s really not a lot. Worrying too much about it reminds me of people worrying about rabies, when there’s only 1 or 2 cases reported per year. You’re about as likely to die from getting struck by lightning or bitten by a shark! (32 people have gotten sick from this recall, while 38 people die getting struck by lightning per year.
So…is the romaine lettuce recall over now??
Well, the FDA decided it was most likely that the outbreak started in California. (Because this case is so similar to last year’s, and last year it originated in Cali.) So now, the FDA and CDC have cleared eating romaine lettuce as long as it was not grown in the Central Coastal region of Cali.
If your lettuce isn’t labeled, lose it! 😉
But I want to know what you think about all this. Do YOU feel like it’s safe to eat romaine lettuce now? Did this recall affect you personally, or not really? Let me know in the comments!