It’s been a tough week for Caesar salad fans.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an advisory this month about potentially-contaminated romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Ariz. region. Some of the romaine from the region may be infected with a strain of E. coli. There have been 98 cases of infection from the lettuce in 22 states. Nearly half of the cases have involved hospitalizations.
“I am a little scared because every time I eat salad or something with lettuce in it, I’m hesitant,” sophomore Emily Ostrander said. “I need to make sure that it’s not romaine lettuce and [that] it’s a lettuce that is not getting people sick.”
The CDC has advised consumers not to eat romaine lettuce, including heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine and salad mixes with romaine lettuce, unless they can confirm that it is not from the Yuma, Ariz. growing region.
An epi curve created by the CDC shows that infections occurring as early as April 7 may not yet be reported. Symptoms of E. coli can often take three to four days to show and can include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Those infected with E. coli will often recover within a week, but about 5 to 10 percent develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which can lead to fever, decreased urination and kidney failure. Several of those infected by E. coli after eating romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Ariz. region have developed HUS.
There has yet to be a case of the E. coli outbreak in Florida, but the CCHS cafeteria staff took extra precaution in making sure that students’ lunches were safe to eat.
“We threw away all [of] the lettuce that we had,” CCHS cafeteria manager Modestina Cariati said. “It was not used for the salads. That’s why the salads [had] spinach, kale [and] different greens.”
The fear surrounding E. coli can be shown by the long-lasting effects of the restaurant chain Chipotle’s E. coli outbreak. Though the outbreak occurred more than two years ago, a survey by UBS Evidence Lab found that a quarter of respondents still worry about the company’s food safety and consequently, eat at the chain less frequently.
Still, some CCHS students don’t find the CDC’s warnings about romaine quite so troubling. Senior Rebecca Smitherman doesn’t need to throw out any of her lettuce because she knows, without a doubt, that it was not grown Yuma, Ariz. This is because Smitherman and her family grow their lettuce themselves.
“My family owns a lettuce farm,” Smitherman said. “We’re in our second year. It’s completely indoor. We grow [the lettuce] vertically in a recycled freight unit with artificial lights [and] we use zero preservatives. I’m not worried about the E. coli because my lettuce is inside, safe and growing great. I know I still have access to fresh lettuce.”
For those CCHS students that do not have access to a lettuce farm, romaine should be consumed carefully until further notice from the CDC. Until E. coli is no longer a threat, lettuce-lovers should check where their romaine is grown or possibly consider the wide range of greens that are not currently involved in an outbreak.
Photo courtesy of Kaboompics.com