With Romaine Lettuce having another contamination as of recently, consumers may be left wondering why and how these foodborne illnesses come about. The most recent and notable case of these contaminations was E. Coli found in Romaine Lettuce sourced in California.
E. coli is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines of animals and even humans. Symptoms of E. Coli-related illness include symptoms as simple as abdominal pain all the way to kidney failure and death. Heat can kill some forms of E. Coli and other bacteria. However, because most fruit and vegetables are served raw, this poses as a major problem as some of these contaminations can’t be eliminated through heat.
Dr Sharareh Hekmat is a Food and Nutritional Sciences professor at Bresica University College and she says that because the lettuce is mass produced, it’s hard to say exactly what the root cause of these outbreaks.
“They mass produce the romaine lettuce and sometimes it could be during the Harvest or from the soil or sometimes storage and transport that they could be contaminated. E-coli is one of those bacteria that is also is opportunistic. So people who are let’s say elderly, children, people with weak immune system, they’re going to be more severely affected.”
It should be noted that this recent outbreak did not affect lettuce that was grown through hydroponic processes, something that Dr. Hekmat says may mean that the outbreak is linked to the fertilizer that they use in the soil.
In the case where consumers do get sick, Marler and Clark is the leading law firm that specializes in foodborne illness cases. Bill Marler has been involved in every major and minor foodborne outbreak in North America and says that these lettuce cases have popped up dramatically since the last decade.
Marler says that the damages in these cases can include hospital bills in the millions, with children possibly needing multiple kidney transplants.
Overall, consumers can stay safe by following any instructions from notices put out by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as well as knowing where their produce comes from.