Experts weigh in amid CDC warning over romaine lettuce

CDC: Don't eat romaine lettuce until we tell you

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sounded the alarm Tuesday afternoon for anyone with romaine lettuce to get rid of it right now.

“If they had already gone to the store and they have romaine lettuce in their homes to just go ahead and throw it away and not to serve it,” said Dr. Laura Gieraltowski with the CDC.

Just two days before Thanksgiving, the broad warning calls for every form of the leafy green to be tossed out. It’s a directive that sent restaurants and grocery stores nationwide scrambling to rid their shelves and menus of the product, including in Louisiana.

Tony Cvitanovich, owner of Dragos in Metairie, says he wasted no time bringing his restaurant chain into compliance. “That’s not something to play with, so right away, I picked up the phone and I started calling all of our managers and all of our kitchen staff as well as our food and beverage people making sure we stop serving anything with romaine lettuce,” he added.

Local officials say this is not just another annual lettuce scare. Dr. Richard Davis with Our Lady of the Lake says this time feels different and the message is seemingly more dire.

Dr. Richard Davis with OLOL
Dr. Richard Davis with OLOL (WAFB)

“This is not like what they usually do,” Davis said. “The CDC is recommending that all romaine lettuce, whether it’s part of a mixed bag or whole lettuce itself, be thrown out immediately and that any kind of drawers or shelves involved be sanitized very thoroughly.”

The latest E. coli outbreak has taken hold in 11 states, making 32 people sick and sending 13 of them to the hospital. Until they know more, officials say no one should eat romaine regardless of when it was purchased or where it was grown. Davis says if anyone did eat any of the lettuce recently, they should pay close attention to any signs of trouble.

“Symptoms usually include fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you do start getting symptoms, we recommend that you call your primary care physician’s office and discuss it with them whether you need to be further evaluated in the emergency department,” said Davis.

Davis says the good news is none of the reported cases of E. coli have come out of Louisiana, but it doesn’t mean you should take this lettuce warning lightly.

“We do need to be wary of it,” he added.

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