Romaine lettuce, one of the most popular types of lettuce, has been the center of headlines lately. With the recent health scare regarding the outbreak of E. coli, is romaine lettuce still safe to eat? Whether in salads, wraps, sandwiches, or smoothies, romaine lettuce’s versatility makes it an essential ingredient in many dishes. So what should you know about eating romaine lettuce right now? Read on to find out.
1. What is Romaine Lettuce?
Romaine lettuce is a variety of lettuce that belongs to the daisy family of plants. It is related to other leafy greens and other vegetables like chicory and endive. Romaine lettuce is often referred to as “cos lettuce” in some European countries. It is an important source of vitamins and minerals, and it is rich in dietary fiber.
Romaine lettuce is fairly easy to recognize because of its long leaves and large center stalk. Its leaves can have a range of colors depending on variety, from light green to dark green to reddish-purple.
Nutritionally speaking, Romaine lettuce is a great source of:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
Romaine lettuce is also low in calories and fat, making it a great ingredient for salads and other dishes.
2. Is Romaine Lettuce Safe to Eat?
The safety of eating romaine lettuce has been called into question in recent weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a number of warnings regarding its consumption due to a risk of E. coli contamination. For now, if you haven’t purchased any romaine lettuce since late November 2018, the CDC deems it safe to eat.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending that people avoid eating any chopped romaine lettuce, regardless of the source. They suggest discarding or returning it to the retailer.
The FDA and CDC are investigating various sources, including:
- Salad bars
If there is romaine lettuce in your home, make sure to check its source. If it is from any of the above sources, it is best to discard it. The FDA has not identified any source of contamination yet.
It is important to note that the contaminated lettuce is only affecting the United States and Canada. So if you are travelling or consuming lettuce from outside these two countries, you are unlikely to be affected.
3. Recent Controversies Involving Romaine Lettuce
- E. coli Contamination – 2019 – In 2019, several outbreaks of E. coli contamination were linked to romaine lettuce. The lettuce was sourced from several states in the US and Canada, resulting in hundreds of illnesses and several deaths. The outbreaks were eventually tracked back to four farms in California.
- Salmonella Outbreak – 2018 – In 2018, a multi-state outbreak of salmonella linked to romaine lettuce resulted in hundreds of cases of illnesses and a few deaths. The exact cause of the contamination is unknown, though it is believed to have originated from the Central Coast of California, where the lettuce was grown.
- E. coli Outbreak - 2017 – In 2017, an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce occurred. It was traced to an Arizona-based farm. The outbreak resulted in 210 cases of illness and five deaths. The farm recalled all its produce and took other safety measures to prevent further contamination.
Even though the three most recent incidents have been linked to romaine lettuce, it is important to note that other vegetable outbreaks have been linked to other vegetables. For example, a 2019 E. coli outbreak linked to cauliflower resulted in over 100 reported cases in the US. It is important to note that official food safety agencies have taken steps to ensure romaine lettuce is safe to consume, including implementing more rigorous testing processes and protocols. However, it’s always best to use caution when handling and consuming any type of produce.
4. Advice on How to Choose and Store Romaine Lettuce
When selecting romaine lettuce, choose heads with crisp green leaves and avoid those with wilted, slimy or yellow leaves. Also, look for heads with tightly packed leaves. Additionally, the core should be firm. Moreover, opt for organic produce if possible.
- Choose crisp, green leaves
- Avoid wilted, slimy or yellow leaves
- Look for tightly packed leaves
- Opt for organic, if possible
- Firm core
Store the romaine lettuce in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, with the stem of the lettuce downwards. Also, use a paper towel in the container to absorb excess moisture and keep the lettuce from going bad quickly. Furthermore, fox any excess air from the container when storing.
- Refrigerate, in an airtight container
- Stem of lettuce downwards
- Use a paper towel to absorb excess moisture
- Compress the container to avoid excess air
5. Final Thoughts on Romaine Lettuce Safety
Now that we’ve discussed the safety of eating romaine lettuce, let’s conclude with some of our final thoughts:
- Always remember to read the label. Knowing where your lettuce was grown or harvested can help you avoid areas affected by the E. coli outbreak.
- Cook romaine lettuce if you’re still concerned about safety. This will help kill any potential bacteria.
- Keep up with food recall notices. The FDA monitors the safety of romaine lettuce and releases notification of product recalls when necessary.
In conclusion, while you should remain vigilant in monitoring the safety of romaine lettuce, there is no evidence that you need to avoid this vegetable altogether. As long as you take the necessary safety precautions, you should feel confident in consuming romaine lettuce in moderation.
From the Food and Drug Administration’s advice to burning entire crops, the Romaine lettuce crisis has been making headlines recently. We hope this article has helped explain the situation and offered advice so you can make your own decision regarding Romaine lettuce. Stay safe and remember, it is always best to double-check your sources and consult your local health authorities for the latest advice and recommendations.