E. Coli Is a Salad Lover's Worst Nightmare

Jacqueline Burt Cote

lettuceThanks to a couple of nightmarish food poisoning episodes, I'm already pretty phobic about what I eat. If the milk is a day past the expiration date, into the trash it goes! So I'm really freaked out by the latest case of E. coli, a deadly outbreak in Germany that's been traced to cucumbers imported from Spain.

Most food-borne pathogens can be avoided by washing fruits and vegetables well and cooking meat thoroughly, but water contaminated with E. coli is thought to sometimes enter vegetables like lettuce through the roots, so no amount of washing can make it go away. What's a salad lover to do?!

When I went online to find tips on safe salad bar-hopping, the only advice I could find beyond the usual "Scrub your produce until your fingers bleed" was along the lines of "Want to avoid E. coli in your lettuce and spinach? Grow your own!" Yeah, that's totally not happening in this lifetime.

Heat is also supposed to destroy E. coli, but cooked lettuce? Ick. I searched in vain for a guaranteed method of preventing infection, but no dice. What?! Eating fruits and vegetables isn't supposed to fall into the category of risky behavior! (Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables, in addition to undercooked beef, are the most likely foods to carry E. coli because it can be spread from manure used as fertilizer to the crops themselves).

It's almost enough to make me say, "Screw it, I'd be safer subsisting on Cheetos and Snickers bars," but I know an all-processed food diet would also kill me, albeit more slowly. So I guess my only choice is to keep on washing, washing, washing my produce, overcooking my meat, and crossing my fingers.

Are you scared of E. coli?


Image via NatalieMaynor/Flickr

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