After the heavy comfort foods of winter, spring is a great time to lighten up.
That's right -- it's officially salad season!
And all of those delicate lettuces and garden veggies that are sprouting up sure make for one tasty salad bowl.
But if you're partial to romaine lettuce -- the pale green variety that's a staple of Caesar salads and bagged salad mixes -- you're going to want to listen up before you dig in.
Back in January, I told you about an outbreak of the lethal bacteria E. coli that sickened 60 folks in the U.S. and Canada, and romaine lettuce was the suspected culprit.
Well, it turns out that salad greens may be a repeat offender -- because the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just linked romaine lettuce to a NEW crop of E. coli infections that have sickened 35 people across 11 states since late March.
And just 10 days ago, the agency started telling us to stop eating romaine (at least until further notice).
More specifically, the CDC has traced the infections back to pre-chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region, although no specific farm or brand of lettuce has yet been identified.
Now, if you live far from Arizona, you might think that you're in the clear.
But since grocery stores and restaurants across the U.S. source their romaine from Arizona, you're vulnerable wherever you live.
Cases of E. coli have popped up from as far away as Washington and Idaho in the West… and Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the East!
And they haven't been mild.
As I've told you before, E. coli can cause abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea so severe that you need medical attention.
To date, 22 folks have been hospitalized, and three people have even developed "hemolytic uremic syndrome," a type of kidney failure.
And since many strains of E. coli are resistant to antibiotics, you don't want to let these bad bugs in!
The bacteria tend to hide out in the nooks and crannies of the lettuce leaves, so washing your lettuce WON'T send them down the drain.
You could cook them off... but who cooks their salads?!
For now, the CDC recommends that everyone avoid chopped romaine sourced from Yuma.
But since it takes some detective work to figure out where your lettuce was grown, it's best to steer clear of ALL romaine (especially the bagged, chopped variety) for the time being.
Make sure that your restaurant order doesn't contain it... get rid of any romaine that you may have in the fridge... and check those salad blends to make sure that romaine isn't in the mix.
When in doubt, toss it out!
On a more positive note, think of this as an opportunity to fill your salad bowl with leafy greens that are even healthier than romaine.
Darker greens -- like spinach, kale, and chard -- contain more nutrients than pale romaine and iceberg, so they’re a better base for your salad creations.
Plus, you can sauté those greens to kill off any and all bad bugs… even the ones we don’t know about yet.