Romaine Lettuce Recalls Raise Safety Concerns
In recent weeks, the romaine lettuce many Americans enjoy regularly has been under a cloud of concern with possible contamination of the bacteria known as E. coli. The bacteria is found in the environment and doesn’t always cause illness. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control notes that most E. coli are not harmful. The strains of the bacteria that we hear about can be very problematic, can cause illness and are transmitted in food, water and other means. The strain that is most often the problematic one causes thousands of illnesses annually and can result in hospitalization and can be fatal.
Not only can uncooked vegetables like tomatoes and lettuces be a problem, but the bacteria can also be found in raw milk, fruit and soft cheeses. Food that is not sufficiently cooked is also a danger.
Lawsuits Filed After Recalls and Outbreaks
Most Americans remember the major issue that the very popular Chipotle restaurants had in 2015. According the Washington Post in that serious outbreak 60 customers from 14 states were infected with the bacteria. The restaurant chain took extreme measures to correct this problem. But the cause of the outbreak was never determined. Many customers who became ill after eating at the chain settled lawsuits brought against the restaurant for causing their illnesses.
Food suppliers, distributors and restaurants are regulated by both federal laws and state laws. If you become ill after eating food or from store-bought romaine lettuce, for example, you may well be able to recover your medical expenses and other losses due to illnesses that are shown to have been the result of eating contaminated foods.
Symptoms and Complications
Experts say that there is a wide range of symptoms of the infection that derives from E. coli bacteria, also known at STEC infections. Some mild infections will barely be noticed, while others may involve symptoms of abdominal distress, vomiting and cramps. The cautionary note is that if any of these symptoms last more than three days, or involve a high fever, it is very important to get to a healthcare provider. One bit of good news is that these sorts of infections are more readily diagnosed with rapid culture tests. A smaller percentage of patients will develop a more serious issue with what is called the E. Coli O157 infection. If the infection progresses, it can result in kidney failure.
As is the case with many other illnesses, those with compromised immunities, small children and elderly adults are most at risk of reacting badly to the bacteria strain that causes illness. But anyone can become ill from particular strains of the bacteria.
What You Can Do to Limit Exposure
Experts say that the first line of prevention is to wash hands when preparing foods and prior to eating foods. Since infants are more susceptible to these infections, washing hands is key when prepping bottles and foods for toddlers. If you aren’t able to use soap and water which is the best way to clean your hands, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Make sure that in your own food prep, you separate raw meats from other foods. And avoid cross contamination by cleaning your surfaces after raw meat has touched them.
There is no substitute for cooking foods to high enough temperatures to destroy these harmful bacterias. As we move into cook-out weather, this is something about which to be mindful. Using a meat thermometer and making sure the internal temperatures are proper, will help ensure food safety. Hamburgers might look done on the outside, but can still be undercooked on the inside. A thermometer alleviates this problem. Many food thermometers have guides directly on them for proper temperatures. Stay away from raw milk and unpasteurized juice and dairy.
Finally, the experts say NOT to swallow swimming pool or other water in lakes and ponds. Make sure your kids are aware that they should not drink this water.
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