E. Coli Outbreak in the US Linked to Romaine Lettuce

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. strain / streɪn / (n) – a specific type of microorganism

    Researchers discovered a new strain of the virus.

  2. cramp / kræmp / (n) – a painful tightening of a muscle

    I am experiencing severe stomach cramps.

  3. caution / ˈkɔ ʃən / (v) – to give a warning

    Experts cautioned that eating raw vegetables may lead to bacterial infection.

  4. strike / straɪk / (v) – to happen unexpectedly and with destructive effects

    A flu virus struck the country last month.

  5. prone / proʊn / (adj) – likely to be affected by something

    People who eat a lot of sweets are prone to diabetes.


Read the text below.

A bacterial outbreak in the United States has been linked to contaminated romaine lettuce.

Store-bought chopped lettuce was discovered to have E. coli, a bacterium usually found in raw milk, fruits, and vegetables and undercooked beef. Specifically, the lettuce has E. coli O157:H7, a toxin-producing strain that harms red blood cells and kidneys. Symptoms of the infection caused by this strain include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting.

The E. coli outbreak, which reportedly started in March, has led to a rising number of cases of infections in over 20 states. As of May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the infection has caused one death in California.

Because of this, the CDC has cautioned that consumers should avoid romaine lettuce, especially if it is from Yuma, Arizona. The region is known to produce most of the lettuce harvested in the country during winter. In fact, Yuma-based Harrison Farms was reported to be the producer of the romaine lettuce that led to the illness of eight inmates at a correctional facility in Alaska.

Although it is considered as one of the worst in the United States, the outbreak is not the first one to strike this year. In January, 25 people from 15 states were infected with the same E. coli strain. The CDC identified leafy vegetables as the outbreak’s source.

Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety director Jeff Farber explained that leafy vegetables like lettuce are prone to E. coli contamination because of their exposure to unclean soil, water, and animals.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Would you still eat romaine lettuce despite the E. coli outbreak in the United States? Why or why not?
• Do you think the producers from Yuma should be held responsible for the outbreak? Explain.

Discussion B

• Is food safety a serious issue in your country? Why or why not?
• How can a country ensure food safety?