Wait! Lettuce is Not Healthy?

By Christy Lenahan - Macaroni Kid Content Contributor November 28, 2018

I am sure we’ve all seen the jokes surfacing around the internet related to the recent E.

coli outbreak found in romaine lettuce. My favorite one to date, “Right now chocolate is good

for you and romaine lettuce can kill you: I’ve been training my whole life for this moment.” In

any case, the outbreak did result in illnesses among 43 people in the United States and 22

people in Canada as well as a mass disposal of romaine lettuce from homes and restaurants.

The FDA has finally tracked down the source of the outbreak, which appears to be lettuce

harvested in the Central Coast growing regions of central and northern California.

Symptoms of E. coli infection are similar to a stomach virus and include abdominal

cramping, diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue. They can begin as soon as 2 days after exposure to E.

coli or as late as 5 days after exposure. The infection is typically self-limiting and resolves on its

own. The best thing you can do is drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. Persons infected

with E. coli should also avoid taking anti-diarrheal medications because these can lengthen the

infection. On occasion E. coli infections may cause a more serious complication known as

hemolytic uremic syndrome. This can lead to kidney failure. Symptoms of hemolytic uremic

syndrome include decreased urination, bloody diarrhea and urine, abdominal pain, and

unexplained bruising. These symptoms should be evaluated by a physician immediately.

Prevention is key to avoiding E. coli infections. Always be aware of warnings put forth

by the FDA and avoid eating affected foods. In recent years, E. coli infections have been linked

to unpasteurized milk, undercooked ground beef, alfalfa sprouts, and lettuce. When cooking,

always use a meat thermometer and make sure you follow recommendations for the type of

meat you are cooking ( Always wash

your hands before preparing food, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, or after

contact with any animal including household pets. Fruits and vegetables should be stored

above raw meat in the refrigerator/freezer to prevent contaminated juices from dripping onto

them. Always wash your fruits and veggies at home and scrub with a veggie brush. Finally, use

separate cutting boards, one for fruits and vegetables and one for raw meat and seafood.