Is romaine lettuce is causing the E. coli outbreak? Not so fast, says CDC

You’ve probably heard by now that 41 people in Canada have contracted E. coli from what possibly could have been contaminated romaine lettuce.

Consumer Reports warned last week that we should be avoiding romaine lettuce, but the Centers for Disease Control says it doesn’t have enough data to support focusing only on romaine. The outbreak in late 2017 sickened nearly 20 people in the U.S. and 40 in Canada. Contributed by Dreamstime/TNS

Fewer than 20 Americans have officially been diagnosed with the same strain, and they are spread across 13 states. (Not Texas.)

But today, the Centers for Disease Control says that a Consumer Reports story last week advising people to avoid romaine lettuce was too quick to pinpoint that particular ingredient as the culprit.

In an interview with NBC News, a CDC official said that even though Canadian authorities have linked the outbreak to romaine, U.S. food safety workers haven’t been able to identify a single food consumed by everyone affected. Many of them were sickened weeks ago, and it can be difficult to recall every food you consumed after so much time has passed, said Ian Williams, chief of the CDC’s Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch.

Romaine lettuce might be the culprit of a recent E. coli outbreak, but the CDC says it can’t issue the same kind of advisory unofficially sent out by Consumer Reports. Renee Studebaker / American-Statesman

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No new cases have been diagnosed in the past month, but that doesn’t mean it’s over, he added.

Williams said Consumer Reports acted on its own to tell readers not to eat romaine after an interview with Connecticut Rep. Rosaw DeLauro, a Democrat who serves on a food safety subcommittee in the House and is concerned about the lack of response at the CDC.


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