If you're still actively searching for dreaded romaine lettuce heads, gathering up the stragglers and chucking them over your shoulder into the big lettuce bonfire, as per our instructions, we must now urge you to stand down. According to the FDA and the CDC, some of the romaine lettuce is actually safe to eat now, and meanwhile the iceberg has always been fine (if bland). Let the lettuce party rage on.
Please note, though, that only some lettuces are invited. Romaine lettuce from the Central Coast of California is specifically NOT invited, so please don't let it in. That region appears to be the source of the recent E.coli outbreak, and its bounty cannot presently be trusted: According to FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the "investigation at this point suggests that romaine lettuce associated with the outbreak comes from areas of California that grow romaine lettuce over the summer months, and that the outbreak appears to be related to 'end of season' romaine lettuce harvested from these areas. The involved areas include the Central Coast growing regions of central and northern California."
The great lettuce panic of 2018 hit on November 20th, mere days before Thanksgiving, when maybe some of you were hoping to prepare a nice side salad to offset the glorious beige palate on your plate. Making matters worse, the CDC and FDA seemed to have taken their sweet time getting this news to the masses. The illnesses first took hold between October 8th and 31st. Meanwhile, the incubation period E.coli requires to burp out its barf-inducing toxin spans two to eight days. I don't know about you, but I definitely enjoyed some romaine lettuce during that fairly wide contagion window.
As soon as the agencies issued their advisory, a wave of alarming reports crashed over the country: "Restaurants should not serve it, stores should not sell it, and people should not buy it, no matter where or when the lettuce was grown," the Washington Post cautioned against this corrupted green. "It doesn't matter if it is chopped, whole head or part of a mix." CNN warned of bloody diarrhea, severe vomiting, fever, and the "potentially life-threatening form of kidney failure" that struck one of romaine's victims. BURN IT ALL, we screamed after consulting the outbreak map and noticing that two of the cases came from New York.
As of Monday, 43 people across 12 states, plus 22 people in Canada, had become ill after consuming tainted romaine. Luckily, no one has died from romaine consumption during the lettuce blackout, but we are not out of the woods yet.
Currently slated as safe: Romaine lettuce from the desert growing region near Yuma, the California desert growing region near Imperial County and Riverside County, the state of Florida, and Mexico. Please be sure to check the box or bag or label and maybe also a map to confirm that your greens did not come from Central or Northern California. Probably, whatever romaines you find on grocery store shelves have been given the green light, but better safe than throwing up for days, I always say.