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Is it safe to eat romaine lettuce?

Answer

Yes. Farmers in California and Arizona grow millions of servings of romaine lettuce every day under a stringent food safety program to ensure romaine and other lettuce is safe to eat. On the very rare occasion when romaine lettuce has been involved in a foodborne illness outbreak, government agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) quickly notify consumers and provide information on what lettuce is safe to eat. According to the CDC romaine lettuce is not suspected in an outbreak at this time and is perfectly safe to eat.

What does it mean when there is a ‘recall’ on romaine lettuce?

You may notice from time to time you hear of a romaine lettuce recall. A romaine recall occurs when there is concern or knowledge that the product is violative (meaning it is believed to be adulterated or contaminated). It is important to know that the majority of produce recalls are unrelated to food safety issues. Most have to do with mislabeling or specific company quality standards. However, in some cases recalls are in response to a foodborne illness outbreak.

What should I do when there is an outbreak involving romaine?

In the unfortunate event of an outbreak, individual companies and public health agencies work together to identify the specific food, brand, lot number, or date of production in order to remove that product from the market. When outbreaks do occur involving romaine lettuce, the vast majority of the product is perfectly safe to eat. However, if a source cannot be narrowed down to a specific company, lot number, or date of production, all of the product will be pulled from the market out of an abundance of caution. This is exactly why with romaine lettuce CDC has on occasion had to issue what they call a consumer advisory warning people not to consume any romaine for a period of time.

What are farmers doing to make romaine safe?

No one works harder to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks in romaine than the farmers who grow it. That is why in 2007 California lettuce farmers created the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA), a program that strives to assure safe leafy greens. Under the LGMA food safety program lettuce farms are visited regularly by government auditors who verify that farmers are following nearly 500 different food safety checkpoints. These food safety practices that farmers must follow are continually updated as more information about how to safely grow lettuce becomes available.

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