Step away from the salad, advises the CDC. Specifically, you should stay away from romaine lettuce in every possible form: baby romaine, spring mix, whole heads, precut, the works. An outbreak of pathogenic E. coli across 11 states and Canada has been traced to romaine lettuce, an echo of a similar outbreak that happened at the same time last year.
The warning extends to lettuce in restaurants, shops, and your home, and the CDC recommends taking no risks: if you think you bought the lettuce before the current outbreak, trash it anyway. If you’re not sure it’s romaine, trash it anyway. If you had romaine in your fridge, they recommend washing down the entire fridge with warm, soapy water; and, if you’re inclined to be extra cautious, a bit of diluted liquid bleach to follow.
Why the high level of alarm? The outbreak is caused by a particularly nasty strain of E. coli that can, in some cases, lead to a type of kidney failure; it’s not to be trifled with. So far, 32 people in the US got sick between October 8 and 31, of whom 13 have been hospitalized. In Canada, six people have been hospitalized out of a reported 18 cases. So far, no deaths have been reported. Because of how long it can take before the CDC gets wind of a case, the agency thinks it won’t yet know about cases happening since the first few weeks of November, so those numbers will probably change.