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Around the Bluhmin Town: Lettuce not panic

This photo from 1997 shows a farm in Yuma County, Arizona. Recently, lettuce grown in that region has been linked to E. coli outbreaks in 22 states. (AP file photo)

This photo from 1997 shows a farm in Yuma County, Arizona. Recently, lettuce grown in that region has been linked to E. coli outbreaks in 22 states. (AP file photo)

Lettuce not panic.

Just because having a salad these days can cause us to become ill, maybe even hospitalized, doesn’t mean that everything green and leafy is contaminated with E. coli.

No, only romaine grown in the Yuma area is the offending source of sickness. However, look closely at your little bags of lettuce, and while you might see where it was packaged, it is almost impossible to know where the heck it was grown!

What are we to do? Toss the salad! Throw out any packaged bag or head of romaine lettuce immediately, dear readers. While a Caesar salad might be divine, and oh so healthy, a tummy ache (and diarrhea, vomiting or kidney failure) is not!

I object to the whole notion that our food supply is becoming contaminated, and we cannot even seem to solve the problem! Find the source? No. Prevent the cause? Guess not.

I thought a nice salad with iceberg lettuce and chopped egg and chicken might be nice. But wait! Hold the eggs. It seems that a mere 200 million eggs are being recalled due to potential contamination with salmonella! So far, the dreaded eggs have not been sold in Arizona, but we better be careful because a “tainted egg” is a rotten situation. In other words, food can be a hazard.

So getting back to Yuma-grown romaine, I would say it is as hard to guess where your lettuce was planted as it is to figure out where the cow lived when you eat a hamburger. We are not always aware of the “where” in our food sources. Buy grass-fed beef local and maybe you can find a neighbor who has a few hens, so you can have a safe egg supply. Lettuce? Plant a garden.

My husband, Doug, is not a big fan of salads. But he does try to feel my pain. He told me that with 325 million Americans and only 84 folks getting ill on romaine, why worry? Of course, we should worry! Eating should not be a risky situation! Opening a bag of salad should not be like bungee jumping off a cliff. Yikes, eating is supposed to be safe!

My mother believes that if you cook at home, you will be able to avoid all manner of food poisoning. Well, I pointed out to her that last year, Listeria was found in sprouts, an awful outcome of just trying to make a healthy sandwich. And then it was found in Blue Bell ice cream, frozen yogurt and sherbet. Yes, the smooth, creamy delights that reminds us of us summer and our childhood were also the cause of a deadly Listeria outbreak. And already this year there have been several company recalls of cheese, ice pops and veggies. We must be careful!

Doug did make me a Shrimp Louie with iceberg lettuce. It was a delicious way to forget all about the “other” salad greens that are banned from our tables. How are we to cope with this food crisis?

Romaine calm.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and local Realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at


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