Do not eat any Romaine lettuce, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an unusually strong-worded emergency safety alert. Romaine may be contaminated with an especially virulent form of E. coli—and because it is not known where the contamination started nor how far affected romaine might have been distributed, the CDC says that no form of Romaine should be considered safe.

As of the end of October, 32 people in 11 states have been sickened by romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli. Because “no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified,” the CDC warns that all of it is suspect…even if you wash it. That includes romaine that is packaged precut, chopped or part of a salad mix…whole heads of lettuce…hearts of romaine…baby romaine…spring mix…Caesar salad…and any other form. In addition…

  • Don’t eat more of romaine that has been partially consumed without anyone getting sick. Throw it out.
  • Don’t eat a lettuce mix or salad if you’re not sure whether it contains romaine. Throw it out.
  • Thoroughly wash and sanitize refrigerator shelves, vegetable bins, kitchen counters, food containers, reusable grocery shopping bags and anything else that romaine lettuce might have touched.

Thankfully, no deaths have been reported from the current outbreak, although 13 people have been hospitalized including one with kidney failure. The same strain of E. coli also is reported to have affected 18 people in Canada. If you have symptoms of E. coli—severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), vomiting and/or fever—contact your health-care provider immediately.

To give yourself a stronger defense against foodborne illness in general, consider taking these steps to keep your immune and digestive systems in optimal health. Coriander and colloidal silver may also be helpful.