New scare puts a deadly spin on salad

It may be hard to believe… but as it turns out, eating a simple salad could kill you.

That’s right — romaine lettuce is now known to have caused the deaths of at least two people — one in the U.S. and one in Canada.

The culprit isn’t those curly green leaves… or even those crisp hearts that put the crunch in your Caesar… but rather the deadly bacteria E. coli that’s camping out there.

And while this recent outbreak is coming from salad greens, there are a whole bunch of other ways that you can be made very ill from that very same bug.

And that would be considered getting off easy — because where kids, seniors, and those who suffer from a chronic illness are concerned, eating a contaminated salad, burger, chicken dish, or plenty of other foods, even “healthy” ones, can quickly turn deadly.

Luckily, there are some fairly simple precautions you can take that will cut the chances of you or anyone in your home being made deathly ill by this pathogen.


It won’t wash

Just last week, I told you about how the FDA sits on its hands when it comes to food recalls, typically letting manufacturers decide on their own when and if to recall something.

Well, here’s a perfect example.

In addition to the two people who died, 56 others in the U.S. and Canada have reportedly been stricken with this potentially fatal foodborne illness, five of whom were hospitalized with two suffering from kidney failure caused by the pathogen.

And people first started getting sick from the greens way back in November!

Despite that fact, as of last week, not only had U.S. health authorities not yet issued a recall… but the CDC was still holding back on warning us not to eat the lettuce.

That responsibility appears instead to have been assumed by the publication Consumer Reports, which issued a statement last week saying to “avoid romaine.”

Seriously, what are U.S. officials waiting for? It’s almost like they’re keeping all of this a deep, dark secret from the public.

Now, while outbreaks of E. coli can (obviously) come from greens, the biggest risk you face is actually from meat and chicken — and cutting that risk is going to depend on how carefully you prepare it and cook it.

But first, when buying ground beef, don’t go for the kind found in those Styrofoam packages in the meat department. While it may say it’s freshly ground, research has found that it could come from as many as a thousand different cows! And that could equal a thousand times the risk that one of those lots was contaminated with E. coli.

Instead, shop at a store that actually employs a butcher, and make sure to have a piece of meat ground to order.

But you still can’t let your guard down, no matter where that meat came from.

So, be sure that anything coming in contact with raw meat or poultry gets a thorough washing with soap and hot water. Another way to easily contaminate your kitchen is to rinse a whole turkey or chicken in the sink. Experts agree it’s not needed, and it can easily spread pathogens around through water droplets.

And as far as cooking that burger or meat loaf goes, things are way too dangerous these days to simply eyeball it for doneness.

What you need is a meat thermometer to make sure that any ground beef (or pork) dish has reached an internal temp of 160º F in the middle. As for chicken, it should be cooked to a slightly higher temperature, from 165º F to 175º F, and the meat should be white with clear (not pink) juices.

Another reason to be especially careful with chicken is the finding several years ago that E. coli from poultry can cause urinary tract infections! While it’s known that around 85 percent of UTIs are caused by that bug, it wasn’t discovered until recently that it could come directly from chicken.

One expert called the birds a “reservoir for E. coli.” Yikes!

And last, but certainly not least, when you hear about contaminated veggies and greens, such as the current romaine situation, don’t think you can simply wash the bacteria away.

E. coli and other pathogens easily can get “stuck” in microscopic crevasses and can’t just be rinsed off.

Only thoroughly heating food — be it broccoli, beef, chicken, or carrots — will kill this bug, something you’re not likely to do with a salad!

“Avoid romaine lettuce for now, Consumer Reports says” Trisha Calvo, January 5, 2018, Consumer Reports, consumerreports.org