The type of lettuce that has been affected for the E.coli alert in the United States, and that the Ministry of Health discards in Spain, is the Roman. Is, after the iceberg, the second most common in packaged salads, such as Caesar. Consumers perceive that this variety of lettuce brings higher quality to the salad, that's why the industry uses it, according to the food safety group of the CSIC. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns the citizens of this country that they should not eat it and recommends throwing the one they keep in the refrigerator, which they must disinfect later. These are the six keys to understanding the alert.
What is E.coli. The Escherichia coli (E.coli) is a type of bacteria found in the environment and in food. Most strains are innocuous and even part of a healthy intestine in humans and animals, according to the Spanish Agency for Consumption, Food Safety and Nutrition (Aecosan). But the O157 is responsible for the alarm in the US, according to the CDC, which has not been able to determine the source of contamination.
Why it has contaminated the lettuce. The origin has not yet been clarified, although Mabel Gil, from the food safety group of the CSIC plants, says by telephone that the water used to irrigate the vegetables is one of the main sources of contamination. This "runs through open channels that the cattle goes through," says Gil, who adds that this is where pollution occurs, which "usually has a fecal origin". According to the scientist, autumn and spring are risky seasons, since moisture allows these microorganisms to survive.
What effects does it have? Aecosan argues that some strains of E. coli cause severe food poisoning that leads to diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory diseases, bloodstream infections and other diseases. In the United States alone, according to the CDC, the bacterium causes 265,000 illnesses every year, 3,600 hospitalizations and 30 deaths.
Why the alert has not arrived in Spain. The Ministry of Health says it has not received any warning related to the detection of E. coli in Romaine lettuce through the Food Alert Network. "Only when there is not enough product is imported from the United States," says Gil, who concludes that it is something "uncommon", because although the lettuce crop is majority in Murcia, it moves to other areas depending on weather conditions to cover the calendar.
How pollution is prevented. Control at all stages of the food chain is essential, according to the Ministry of Health. "DFrom agricultural production on the farm to the preparation, manufacture and preparation of food in the kitchens of both commercial establishments and homes, "said sources in the department run by María Luisa Carcedo.l responsible for putting a healthy product on the market is the economic operator. "Salad making companies, for example, prevent in the field: they make sure that irrigation and fertilizer are not contaminated," Gil maintains. Once in the factory, the scientist continues, wash the lettuces with a disinfectant. But this only prevents bacteria from spreading, it does not eliminate them.
What is done when the outbreak has already erupted. Aecosan says that after the care of those affected, which according to the CDC will present a picture of stomach cramps, diarrhea (usually bloody) and vomiting, it is essential to "locate and remove all products from the market." In addition to going to the source of pollution to avoid the repetition of similar situations. "In the case of this outbreak in the United States, it will have to destroy the entire crop," Gil ditch.