Food safety alert for romaine lettuce continues into new year

Updated: Jan. 6, 2020 at 8:01 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - It’s a food safety alert you may have forgotten about that has sent dozens of people to the hospital, including in Illinois.

The Center For Disease Control is still warning people not to buy or eat romaine lettuce grown in Salinas, California because it could have E. Coli.

The outbreak started late last year and so far 138 cases have been reported in 25 states, and 72 who got sick had to go to the hospital for treatment.

While the popular vegetable is now back on store shelves, the packaging and the fine print can send different messages about whether a certain product is safe to eat or not.

Vegetarian Hannah Steinberg said she did not know the recall was still in effect.

“Yeah, it’s bad because I eat lettuce all of the time," Steinberg said. “So now I have to go and read every little label. It’s kind of annoying, and is a big time thing.”

Natalie Govreau is an environmental health specialist for the Cape Girardeau County Health Center.

Govreau helps make sure the recall is followed at local restaurants and grocery stores, and said E. Coli is a high class recall.

“It could lead to kidney failure and could ultimately lead to death," Govreau said. "It’s something to take very serious not something like, ‘Oh, I’ll eat it if I don’t know.’ If you’re in doubt throw it out. Don’t eat it.”

The CDC said a lot of companies that produce Romaine also package it in Salinas, California, which is safe to eat if it’s grown elsewhere.

To be safe, Govreau suggested looking for the use-by date or finding an extra sticker that tells you where the lettuce was harvested.

“It’s really good to look for the tag and it tells you specifically where it is grown,” Govreau said. “If you happen to buy romaine lettuce that is loose the retailer should have that sign right there that tells you where the product is grown. If that tag is not there I wouldn’t buy it.”

And shoppers like Steinberg plan to take the risk more seriously.

“I still have to buy lettuce, and I’ll definitely be checking a lot harder for that kind of stuff," Steinberg said.

The CDC is still investigating the source of the latest E. Coli outbreak, so the recall will stay in place for the foreseeable future.

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