Why washing romaine lettuce won't kill the E. coli that's already sickened 32 people

CDC Advising Not to Eat Any Type of Romaine Lettuce Due to E. Coli Outbreak

Washing romaine lettuce won't rid it of E. coli, experts say amid an outbreak that's already sickened 32 people across multiple states.

Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said running water over the lettuce can't ensure that harmful germs are killed. Even scrubbing with baking soda or vinegar won't do the trick.

» Romaine lettuce not safe to eat: CDC, FDA issue warnings ahead of Thanksgiving

Why? Because bacteria can get stuck in "microscopic crevices," James Rogers director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports has said.

If you have romaine lettuce at home, throw it out, the CDC warned in a food safety alert issued two days before Thanksgiving. All of it — even if it's bagged and "triple washed." You should also clean your refrigerator where the contaminated lettuce was stored — maybe even with a tablespoon of bleach, according to the CDC. Don't forget to wash your hands, too.

» Deadly romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak spreads to more states

Thinking about cooking your greens? Even wilting lettuce can't guarantee all of the bacteria is gone. There's also no research saying that buying organic is less risky for E. coli.

E. coli symptoms include stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Some cases can be life-threatening. Among the illnesses reported by the CDC in the current outbreak, one person was hospitalized with a kind of kidney failure.

States affected by the outbreak include California (the state with 10 sick), Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.

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