CDC Warns the Nation to Avoid All Romaine Lettuce

Edward Kim  |

In an unusually broad warning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a Food Safety Alert on all romaine lettuce because of a multistate outbreak of a particularly virulent strain of bacteria known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). While no deaths have been reported yet, 32 people were infected across 11 states stretching from California to New Hampshire during October 2018. Of these, 13 were hospitalized and one person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. The Public Health Agency of Canada has also identified 18 people infected with the same DNA fingerprint of E. coli in Ontario and Quebec.

The breadth of the warning is a result of no common grower, supplier, distributor or brand of romaine lettuce having yet been identified as the source of the outbreak. There are many kinds of STEC that cause disease, but this reported strain, E. coli O157:H7, is the most common. The CDC estimates that collectively, all forms of STEC cause 265,000 illness, 3,600 hospitalizations and 30 deaths in the US each year.

Source: The Washington Post

From the CDC's Food Safety Alert:

Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.
  • This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
  • If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.
  • Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing romaine.

The FDA concurrently announced that it is coordinating with the CDC, Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to conduct a "traceback investigation" to determine the source of the infected lettuce.

We really wanted to get this information to consumers as soon as possible before the holiday, when they might be sharing meals together that could include romaine lettuce.

- FDA spokesman Peter Cassell, as told to Consumer Reports.

We urge you to please heed the collective warnings of these agencies and avoid all romaine lettuce until further notice. From all of us at, please travel safe and enjoy your Thanksgiving celebrations!

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