Following an E. coli bacterial outbreak in 11 states and Canada that has sickened 32 people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a stern warning Tuesday: Do not eat romaine lettuce.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, CDC officials say they are acting out of an abundance of caution as they investigate. The reported E. coli infections began between Oct. 8 and Oct. 31, but officials said there may be even more because it takes an average of two to three weeks for illnesses to be reported.
No deaths have been reported, although 13 of those affected were sick enough to be hospitalized and one person developed kidney failure.
Here’s what you need to know about the outbreak:
What’s wrong with romaine lettuce, exactly?
The CDC is still investigating, but the agency announced that E. coli O157:H7, a strain of E. coli that produces a harmful toxin, has been linked to romaine lettuce.
The bacterial strain comes from cow feces and was first recognized as a pathogen in 1982. It contaminates the human food supply several ways, such as through unsanitary irrigation or spraying, flooding, or animals who carry the bacteria onto farmland. A 2006 E. coli outbreak linked to spinach ― which sickened hundreds ― was caused by wild pigs wandering between cow pastures and spinach fields in California.