Short answer: probably not. The E. coli O145 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from Freshway Foods has lots of people wondering whether produce is safe to eat right now. In addition to the Columbus resident who we represent in a lawsuit in the lettuce outbreak, we have been contacted by a number of other families with sick members, and many more concerned consumers. The Freshway romaine lettuce recall is likely limited to produce served and sold in institutional settings like schools, and possibly restaurants too.
Moni Basu wrote a good article on CNN Health today on the subject after talking to several food safety scientists and Bill Marler:
The Seattle, Washington-based lawyer credited the industry with having done "a remarkable job" in ensuring that large-scale outbreaks are not as common as they once were, but he said growers, shippers and manufacturers need to do more.
"They have a responsibility to the consumer to do the absolute best they can to get animal feces out of their food products," he said, referring to the source of the bacteria.
He speculated that the true number of people sickened by the outbreak is more than 23. "Probably a lot more, because not very many labs test for E. coli 0145," he told CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Food safety experts have identified lettuce as one of the products needing the most attention from the industry.
Production practices, harvesting, packing, processing and food handling have all been linked to illnesses associated with leafy greens. E. coli can get into food through manure, contaminated water used during growing or harvesting, or improper food handling at a store, restaurant or home.
It’s best to ask a lot of questions of the people who sell you the green stuff, Powell said. Was the irrigation water tested? Do the pickers know to properly wash their hands?
Beyond that, the only way to kill bacteria is to cook it. But who wants to eat mushy romaine?