Is It Still Unsafe to Eat Romaine Lettuce? Here's What You Need To Know

Following the E coli outbreak, the CDC is advising consumers "not to eat or buy romaine lettuce if they do not know where it was grown."

The romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak is not over yet—in fact, the CDC says it’s the largest multi-state E. coli outbreak in the U.S. in a dozen years. Although The Verge reported that growing season in Yuma, Arizona, where the infected lettuce is suspected to have come from, has ended, the CDC still says it’s not safe to eat romaine unless you can confirm its origin.

As of Wednesday May 9, the total number of affected persons has reached 149, spanning over 29 states, and the bacteria has killed one person. 64 people out of 112 with available information have been hospitalized, and 17 of those people have developed kidney failure.

However, the CDC also announced that the most recent illness started on April 25 and there could be more reports coming.

“Illnesses that occurred in the last two to three weeks might not yet be reported because of the time between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported to CDC,” the website reads.

Romaine lettuce

In a statement to PEOPLE, a representative for the CDC said they are advising consumers to “ask your suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce.”

“If you do not know whether lettuce is romaine, do not eat it,” the statement said. “This includes lettuce in a salad mix. Package labels often do not identify growing regions. CDC is advising consumers not to eat or buy romaine lettuce if they do not know where it was grown.”

However, the outbreak hasn’t scared away many restaurants from keeping romaine on their menu. Fast-casual chain Just Salad, which relies on romaine lettuce as an ingredient in over half of its menu items, confirmed to PEOPLE that they are continuing to serve romaine.

“We are still offering romaine as a safe lettuce choice, as we do not source our romaine from the affected area,” Janani Lee, Just Salad Supply Chain Analyst, said. “Our romaine is sourced from Salinas, California, where there have not been any reports of contaminated lettuce.”

On Saturday, April 21, the company wanted to remain transparent with their customers, so they alerted them through social media and through an e-newsletter with information about the outbreak and the restaurant’s position.

“Just Salad suppliers are NOT affected by the possible E.coli outbreak,” the statement read, before informing customers of where their lettuce in all markets originates. “Please rest assured that our Romaine is safe to consume. In addition to romaine we currently carry five other choices of lettuce.”

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But despite romaine remaining on the menu, Lee said that many of their patrons are opting for other leafy greens such as mesclun and kale, and the company even added iceberg to their menu for customers looking for an alternative. She also said that Just Salad has not seen a decrease in foot traffic across their stores.

The bottom line is: Unless a restaurant has issued an official notice, if you see romaine on the menu, be sure to ask where it came from. If they can’t give you a specific area, don’t eat it. Or better yet, opt for another green all together until the outbreak is under control.

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