- The CDC recommended on Tuesday that Americans avoid all forms of romaine lettuce.
- At least 32 people in 11 states have been infected with E. coli after consuming romaine — but the source of the outbreak is unknown.
- Leafy greens — especially those sold prewashed — are one of the riskiest foods when it comes to food poisoning.
Leafy greens — specifically romaine lettuce — are under the microscope as another food-poisoning outbreak sweeps the United States.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans avoid any form of romaine lettuce. According to the CDC, at least 32 people in 11 states have reported E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce that started last month, according to the CDC. Thirteen people have been hospitalized.
This incident follows an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce that killed five people and sickened more than 200 earlier this year.
Leafy greens are among the more dangerous foods when it comes to food-poisoning risks. A CDC study found that, from 1998 to 2008, leafy greens were associated with more incidents of food poisoning than any other type of food.
While cooking veggies and meat can kill germs, many leafy greens are eaten raw. Salads, in particular, are a food-poisoning risk, as they bring together a number of raw foods that have had countless opportunities for contamination.
Shoppers and restaurants that buy pre-chopped lettuce from suppliers put themselves at even greater risk. The process of washing, cutting, and bagging food increases the likelihood that it will become tainted, according to Bill Marler, a lawyer who specializes in cases of food poisoning. Marler says he avoids precut and prewashed fruit and vegetables "like the plague."
A 2010 study by Consumer Reports found "unacceptable" levels of bacteria that commonly cause food poisoning in about a third of the 208 salad bags tested. That doesn't mean these bacteria actually caused an illness — just that they had the potential to do so.
However, romaine lovers may find themselves confused about one last fact — why has this particular leafy green caused so many problems in 2018? According to Marler, there isn't anything about romaine lettuce that makes it intrinsically more dangerous than any other leafy green.
"I think it's just romaine is getting a bad draw," Marler told Business Insider on Tuesday.