On November 20th, 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning against the consumption of romaine lettuce due to an outbreak of E. Coli linked to certain batches of the vegetable.
According to NPR, the latest outbreak includes strains found in the 2017 E. Coli outbreak involving leafy greens. While the strain was thought to be eliminated, it has made a resurgence in the Western Coastal region, specifically in California, leaving 43 people ill.
Although the FDA has relaxed its stance on romaine lettuce (now saying that only lettuce harvested from Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura should be avoided), the nationwide warning they had put out has impacted food vendors everywhere, as well as the lettuce economy.
Most notably, the Bothell High School lunch staff have been affected by the lack of romaine lettuce. “We’ve just substituted our romaine with other forms of salad, such as iceberg, spring mix.” says Bev Huizenga, Cafeteria Manager of Bothell High. “Nobody’s gone hungry. We’ve carried on without it. But we aren’t taking any chances with our students.”
Some critics criticize that the panic spread by the FDA hurt farmers who were making an honest living, growing clean lettuce. The price of iceberg lettuce has also shot up as well.
Coli is a type of bacteria that normally resides in the stomachs of humans and animals alike. Most strains are harmless, and even help with bodily functions. However, some strains can be dangerous, and even lethal, as seen by the current lettuce outbreak. Symptoms of E. Coli include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and nausea.
“Remember,” Bev says, “safety first.”