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Reconsider Lettuce Use in Light of Recurring Contamination

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance -

  • In the last week of November 2019, the CDC issued a food safety alert stating it is investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce harvested from the Salinas, California, region
  • As of November 25, 2019, 67 cases had been reported across 19 states, 39 of which required hospitalization. Six persons developed kidney failure. However, between July 12 and September 8, 23 people had also been sickened from contaminated romaine, and this wasn’t reported to the public
  • The E. coli strain causing the outbreak — O157:H7, also known as STEC — is genetically indistinguishable from lettuce-related outbreaks that occurred in 2017 and 2018. STEC is a Shiga toxin-producing type of E. coli, which is why it’s so dangerous
  • E. coli O157:H7 is typically associated with cattle. The first of the two outbreaks in 2018 was traced back to manure runoff from a CAFO in the vicinity of the lettuce farm. Contaminated water was used to irrigate the lettuce fields
  • Lettuce provides few valuable nutrients and is prone to contamination. You’re better off swapping lettuce for homegrown sprouts, which are rich in nutrients and easy to grow

Foodborne disease outbreaks are becoming increasingly common, thanks to conventional agricultural and concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) practices. According to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 25,606 foodborne infections, 5,893 hospitalizations and 120 deaths from food poisoning in 2018.

Preliminary data from the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network for 2017 indicated there were 24,484 infections, 5,677 hospitalization and 122 deaths that year, but the CDC’s finalized outbreak surveillance report for 2017 brought those numbers down to 14,481 illnesses, 827 hospitalizations and 20 deaths.


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