It’s Safe to Eat Romaine Lettuce Again, Says the CDC: The Question is “How do you Wash leafy greens?

By February 7, 2018ARF News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement  saying the outbreak of E. coli infections that impacted 15 states across the country “appears to be over as of January 25, 2018.” The CDC, along with several states, and the Food and Drug Administration, investigated the outbreak, interviewing 15 people who became sick between November 5, 2017 and December 12, 2017.

Even though the information the organizations gathered indicated that the most likely source of the outbreak in the United States was leafy greens, the specific type of leafy greens that served as the source of infection was not identified. Since leafy greens have a short shelf life, and since the last illness started over a month ago, the CDC says the contaminate is most likely no longer available for sale.

Fifty-eight people in the United States and Canada have become ill from a strain of E. coli bacteria over the past seven weeks, most likely from eating romaine lettuce, according to experts.

In the U.S., infections have occurred in 13 states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington. So far five people in the U. S. have been hospitalized, and one has reportedly died in Canada.

How do Vegetables become contaminated?

Vegetables can be contaminated if animal feces are in the field or in irrigation or washing water. The bacteria can also be transmitted if a person who is carrying the bacteria doesn’t wash his or her hands after using the bathroom and then processes or prepares food.

How do you properly wash leafy Greens?

It’s important to note that washing your greens won’t necessarily get rid of dangerous E. coli in nooks and crannies of the leaves. Yet it’s still important to thoroughly wash your leaves before eating them.

The first step in preparation of fresh greens, whether produced organically or conventionally, purchased from a farmers market or supermarket, served cooked or raw, is to wash them properly. Here’s how:

  • Always start with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds or more with soap and warm water.
  • Cut away any damaged areas on leaves or stems before preparing or eating the greens. If something seems rotten, discard it.
  • Thoroughly wash them under running water just before chopping, cooking or eating. This will help reduce the presence of microorganisms. Hint: If you wash leafy greens before storing, you can potentially promote bacterial growth and enhance spoilage.
  • If lettuce has a core, such as iceberg lettuce, remove it before washing.
  • When you have loose leaves, such as mesclun, that can’t easily be held under cold running water, immerse the leaves in a large clean bowl or a salad spinner filled with cold water. Toss them around in the water for 30 seconds or more. Drain and repeat twice.
  • Never wash leafy greens with soap, detergent or bleach, since these can leave residues that are not meant to be consumed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t recommend using commercial produce washes because these may also leave residues.
  • If leafy greens are labeled as “pre-washed” or “ready-to-eat,” use them without additional washing, since it is unlikely to enhance their safety.
  • After washing fresh greens, pat them dry with paper towels or a freshly clean kitchen towel — or use a salad spinner — to help remove excess liquid.

Is it necessary to wash pre-washed leafy Greens?

YES. You can never be sure of how it was cleaned. It is much better to do something yourself.

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