Can You Wash E. Coli Off Your Romaine Lettuce?

by Rose Marie Walano 3:00 AM, April 27, 2018

Aired April 27, 2018

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the major romaine lettuce issue that’s been freaking everyone out — but don't be so fast to blame the lettuce!

"It's really not the lettuce's fault — it's the livestock," Dr. Oz explains. "We use 85 percent of all the antibiotics in America on cattle — to help them grow faster [and] to deal with factory-forming habits."

The downside? The cows then get a bacteria in their gut: E. coli, which — after going No. 2 — can get transferred to the water supply and go into plants like lettuce.

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Which leads us to the E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce.

Which begs the question... can you wash E. coli off lettuce?

Answer: Probably not.

As The New York Times reported, "It only takes a few cells of E. coli to make you sick, so while washing produce lowers the risk, it doesn’t eliminate it entirely."

As of now, the CDC recommends that you do NOT eat romaine lettuce, especially if it’s from Arizona. Since produce labels often do not identify growing regions, if you're uncertain about where your romaine was grown, they recommend skipping it completely (better safe than sorry!). Check here for updates on the E. coli romaine lettuce outbreak from the CDC.

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Symptoms of E. coli typically begin two to eight days after consuming the bacteria, says Dr. Oz — although most patients become ill three or four days after consumption. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

Most people recover in five to seven days. But remember, those most at risk for E. coli illness include the very young, the very old and individuals with compromised immune systems.


That said, it never hurts to wash your lettuce, as it will help you remove some bacteria, pesticides and dirt. And if you want to know the best way to scrub your lettuce clean, Dr. Oz will show you in the video above! (Which, he notes, will be particularly useful once this outbreak is said and done.)