CDC: Do not eat romaine lettuce. Learn how to dispose the lettuce and clean your refrigerator before Thanksgiving

Romaine Lettuce
Romaine Lettuce. Photo by Forest & Kim Starr.

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a very stark warning to U.S. consumers just before Thanksgiving:

Don’t go anywhere near romaine lettuce.

The message is very clear on the CDC website:

“CDC is advising that U.S. consumers not eat any romaine lettuce, and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any, until we learn more about the outbreak. This investigation is ongoing and the advice will be updated as more information is available.

Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.”

This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.”

Outbreak in 11 states

The CDC made the call to recall romaine lettuce after 32 people were found infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 in 11 states. An outbreak has also occurred in Canada.

Tips on how to remove the lettuce and clean-up afterwards

It is important to recognize that once you remove the romaine lettuce from your refrigerator, the CDC recommends you clean your refrigerator. Here are helpful tips.

Items needed to clean your refrigerator:

Sealed Bags
Warm, Soapy Water
Clean Towels
Optional: Water + Bleach

STEP 1 – Throw out recalled food

    • Throw out the recalled food, and any other foods stored with it or touching it.
    • Put it in a sealed bag in the garbage.
    • If the recalled food was stored in a reusable container, wash it with warm, soapy water before reusing.
      STEP 2 – Empty your Refrigerator
    • Empty the rest of the items in your refrigerator and put them on a counter or table while you clean.
    • Take out shelving, drawers, and any other removable parts.
    • Don’t leave unrefrigerated food out for more than two hours.

STEP 3 – Wash Removable Parts

  • Wash shelving, drawers, and any other removable parts by hand with warm, soapy water.
  • Dry with a clean towel.
  • Don’t run cold glass shelves or drawers under hot water – the glass could crack. Let them come to room temperature first.

STEP 4 – Clean and Sanitize Inside the Refrigerator

  • Wipe the inside of the empty refrigerator with warm, soapy water, then wipe with clean water to rinse off soap.
  • Dry with a clean towel.
  • Don’t forget to wipe inside the doors and any drawers that cannot be removed.

STEP 5 – Return Shelves, Drawers, and Food

  • Put the shelves, drawers, and other removable parts back in the refrigerator, along with the other items you took out.
  • Wipe food and drink containers with warm, soapy water before returning to the clean refrigerator.
  • And don’t forget!

Wash your hands with warm water and soap once you’ve finished cleaning.
Use warm, soapy water to wipe kitchen counters that held food, drinks, refrigerator parts and any cleaning materials.

Wash any towels you used to dry the refrigerator before using them again.

If you have any questions, please refer back to the CDC website

  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.