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Leafy Greens "Safety"

Perhaps you have heard about occasional outbreaks of E. coli contaminated lettuce? the CDC advises you to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before and after preparing leafy greens, and get rid of any torn or bruised leaves. Also, discard the outer two or three leaves of cabbages and lettuce heads. Always promptly refrigerate bagged lettuce and do pay attention to the expiration date.

  • Results from CDC analysis from one of a dozen outbreaks in the US over a three- year period showed that people in one specific outbreak were 8 times more likely to eat iceberg lettuce and 5 times more likely to eat romaine lettuce before getting sick compared to people who got sick with Listeria but were not part of an outbreak.

· Vegetables, including leafy greens, are an important part of a healthy and balanced diet. However, they can sometimes be contaminated with harmful germs.

· The safest produce is cooked; the next safest is washed. However, no washing method can remove all germs.

· Is bagged romaine lettuce safe to eat?

· Even when leafy greens are grown free of harmful bacteria, contamination can still occur during harvesting, processing, or packaging. And because packaged salad greens are processed at a small number of facilities across the U.S., bacteria such as listeria can easily spread from one batch to many.

No leafy green is risk, although purchasing hydroponic lettuce (which are greenhouse grown) and less likely to be contaminated. Whole heads of lettuce (instead of bagged greens may also be safer, as the inner leaves are less exposed, thus, the reason for removing a few layers of leaves when washing and preparing them, this reduces the opportunities for contamination.

Additionally, on the very rare occasion when romaine lettuce has been involved in a foodborne illness outbreak, government agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) quickly notify consumers and provide information on what lettuce is safe to eat.

What does it mean when there is a ‘recall’ on romaine lettuce?

You may notice from time to time you hear of a romaine lettuce recall. A romaine recall occurs when there is concern or knowledge that the product is violative (meaning it is believed to be adulterated or contaminated). It is important to know that most produce recalls are unrelated to food safety issues. Most have to do with mislabeling or specific company quality standards. However, in some cases recalls are in response to a foodborne illness outbreak.

What should I do when there is an outbreak involving romaine?

In the unfortunate event of an outbreak, individual companies and public health agencies work together to identify the specific food, brand, lot number, or date of production in order to remove that product from the market.

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