Sorry Caesar salad lovers, the answer is a bit complicated.
In the past month, 149 people in 29 states have been sickened by romaine lettuce tainted with E. coli. To date, the outbreak has reportedly claimed one life, and left 14 with life-threatening kidney damage. And new cases, like the most recent one in Texas, are still popping up.
Even though the culprit (romaine grown in the area of Yuma, Arizona) was identified weeks ago, the CDC’s sweeping, nationwide warning to avoid the leafy green at all costs still weighs heavy on American minds.
So when will romaine lettuce be safe to eat?
The last bunch was shipped out of Yuma on April 16th, and depending on how it’s packaged, romaine can have up to a 21-day shelf life. That means that the last packages of potentially tainted romaine should have an expiration date of May 6th. So if you check the expiration dates, you should safe… mostly.
As Lifehacker recently pointed out, restaurant could still be making salads with lettuce that’s just a few days past date, because it still looks good. You never know.
As far as the experts are concerned, they’re still advising caution. Here’s what the CDC has to say:
- Do not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma growing region. Romaine lettuce has a shelf life of several weeks, and contaminated lettuce could still be in homes, stores, and restaurants.
- Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, do not eat or buy romaine lettuce if you do not know where it was grown.
- This advice includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, baby romaine, organic romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you do not know if the lettuce in a salad mix is romaine, do not eat it.
WATCH: Yikes! New FDA Testing Finds Foodborne Pathogens in Fresh Herbs and Guacamole
So, in short, if you can guarantee that your grocery store romaine has an expiration date of May 7th or later, you should be safe. And for now, continue avoiding romaine at restaurants as well. Sorry Caesar salad lovers!