Why Romaine Lettuce is More Prone to E. Coli Outbreaks, and How to Protect Yourself

It’s likely that you’ve come across the stories on the news about romaine lettuce being taken off the shelves due to E. coli outbreaks that made several people ill across North America. While the scare is over and it’s apparently safe to consume again, there are some key reasons why this type of produce is more susceptible to E. coli. Let’s find out why and highlight some steps you should take to stay safe.

A Riskier Growing Process

Romaine lettuce is more prone to E. coli due to how it’s grown. The produce comes from Arizona and California, which is also known for its cattle farming. Water used to irrigate the crops may interact with bacteria from various animals. Combined with the higher heat and humidity of these regions, the lettuce is thirstier and requires much more water. Therefore, the risk of cross-contamination intensifies, especially since romaine lettuce isn’t anywhere near as hardy as other crops such as kale.

Avoiding Cross-Contamination at Home

Regardless of whether you use romaine lettuce, there are some critical steps to take to prevent cross-contamination at home or work. First and foremost, always store and handle raw meats or poultry in a way so they don’t ever drip or come into contact with other foods (raw chicken, in particular, can be lethal if you’re not careful). There is no need to wash them either, which can risk splashing harmful bacteria around that are otherwise killed during cooking. Additionally, you should always try to keep other raw foods including vegetables separated from ready-to-eat foods.

And, of course, always thoroughly wash your hands before switching tasks or touching other foods!

Proper Washing Techniques

The trick to washing any produce correctly is efficiency. Always remove all stickers, rinse them under the tap, and rub the entire surface in a bowl of fresh water before rinsing one last time. Often, loose-leaf lettuce and similar produce will contain trapped soil that could harbour harmful bacteria, so give those products more attention when washing.

Other Techniques

In addition to a good wash and rinse, there are other ways you can protect against E. coli outbreaks. For example, try using a specific cutting board for raw foods and another for those that are ready to eat. The same goes for knives and other utensils, which should always be washed appropriately, especially if used on raw foods.

Being proactive and detail-oriented when it comes to meals can safeguard your health for the better. While some products such as romaine lettuce are more susceptible to E. coli, your home or workplace is also a place where bacteria can thrive. With these tips in mind, you may be able to prevent foodborne illnesses more effectively!

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