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Why Is so Much Romaine Lettuce Toxic?

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says foodborne illnesses affect 1 in 6 (about 48 million) Americans every year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.1 In 2018, those statistics include a few hundred individuals who contracted Escherichia coli (E. coli) after eating romaine lettuce.

As noted in the featured NBC News video, the latest alert involving suspected E. coli infections associated with romaine lettuce was issued by the CDC a few days before Thanksgiving.2

For your safety, the CDC advises you discard any romaine lettuce you may have on hand from California and avoid eating it until further notice. Romaine grown in greenhouses or hydroponically is not affected, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.3 This is one in a series of romaine-related outbreaks to have taken place in recent years.

Other major E. coli infections were reported nationwide in the spring of 2018 and fall of 2017. Given the time of year, the current outbreak is thought to involve romaine lettuce grown in California.4 The probable source of the contamination is manure runoff from a nearby concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO).

CDC Once Again Issues a Food Safety Alert for Romaine Lettuce

November 20, 2018, the CDC issued a food safety alert for romaine lettuce after a multistate outbreak of E. coli.5 A similar outbreak is being investigated in Canada, and U.S. and Canadian agencies are coordinating efforts to safeguard the health and well-being of consumers in both countries.

Working together with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state and local agencies, the CDC has determined Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157:H7 illnesses are likely linked to romaine lettuce originating from California.6

November 26, 2018, the CDC and the FDA announced they had narrowed down the areas where the suspect romaine was grown to lettuce farms on the Central Coast of northern and central California.7 Since the suspect lettuce was a late-season crop, the two agencies now believe no more romaine lettuce will be coming from that region as other areas of the country take over the winter season.

As a result, the FDA has rolled back its call to avoid all romaine lettuce, and instead, is urging consumers to read labels and not eat or purchase romaine lettuce from the suspected California regions. If you can’t determine where the lettuce was grown, don’t buy it, or throw it out if you already have it on hand.

A genetic analysis of the E. coli strains collected from patients involved in the recent string of illnesses has linked the bacteria to an outbreak that happened in the fall of 2017.

At that time, E. coli was found on leafy greens in the U.S. and romaine lettuce in Canada.8 There is no genetic link between the current outbreak and the one that occurred in the spring of 2018. The CDC said, “People in the spring outbreak were infected with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria with a different DNA fingerprint.”9

The Public Health Agency of Canada says a number of Canadians from at least two provinces have fallen ill with the same type of infection. The CDC alert stated, “Epidemiologic evidence from the U. S. and Canada indicates romaine lettuce is a likely source of the outbreak.”10

Thankfully, there are many other salad greens and vegetables you can eat safely until this situation resolves. Later in this article, I will offer tips to help you enjoy salad greens and other produce safely.

There Are a Number of Health and Safety Issues With Salad Greens

It’s no secret U.S. consumers love the convenience of prewashed produce that is sold in bags, clamshells and tubs. Unfortunately, those types of greens are precisely the ones continually implicated in outbreaks associated with foodborne illness.

In fact, says The Washington Post, food-safety experts suggest “convenience greens — those handy bags of prechopped and prewashed salads — carry an extra risk because they come in contact with more people and machinery before they arrive on your plate.”11

E. coli is quite common — its many strains are found in food and the environment and it also lives in animal and human intestines. Thankfully, most E. coli infections are tolerable, if not harmless. The types of E. coli known to cause illness are often transmitted through contaminated food and water or through contact with animals or people.

For example, a large 2006 outbreak of E. coli involving spinach was thought to be triggered by wild pigs and well water.12 The current strain of E. coli in question — STEC O157:H7 — is a particularly dangerous form. In the U.S., the CDC says an estimated 265,000 people suffer from STEC infections annually; the O157:H7 variety is responsible for more than one-third of those illnesses.13

While people of all ages are susceptible, the elderly and young children are most likely to be severely affected by STEC’s unpleasant side effects. Generally, symptoms appear one to 10 days after eating the contaminated food item and may include bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting.

Before this outbreak, in the spring of 2018, another situation involving romaine and E. coli affected people who got sick after eating romaine or having close contact with another person who become ill after consuming the lettuce.

At the conclusion of their three-month investigation, the CDC reported, “Epidemiologic, laboratory and traceback evidence indicated that romaine lettuce from the Yuma, [Arizona], growing region was the likely source of this outbreak.”14 The contamination affected 210 people in 36 states, resulting in five deaths and 27 suffering from E. coli-related kidney failure.15

Do You Know the Conditions Under Which Your Salad Greens Are Grown?

Due to the industrialization of our food system, Americans eat produce from all over the world, regardless of whether it is in season locally. It’s not unusual to go to the supermarket and return with fruits and vegetables grown and harvested in Canada and Mexico, as well as countries in Europe and South America, among others.

Although enjoying seasonal produce raised far from home has become the norm, this convenience is not without risk or cost. According to The New York Times,16 the majority of bagged romaine lettuce provided to grocery stores and restaurants across North America is grown in California’s Salinas Valley.

That said, in late fall and winter, the industry makes a seasonal move to Yuma, which was the source of the E. coli contamination with respect to the outbreak in the spring of 2018. About the source of that outbreak, in June 2018 the CDC stated:17

“The FDA and state and local regulatory officials traced the romaine lettuce to many farms in the Yuma growing region. The FDA, along with CDC and state partners, started an environmental assessment in the Yuma growing region and collected samples of water, soil and manure.

CDC laboratory testing identified the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 in water samples taken from a canal in the Yuma growing region. WGS (whole genome sequencing) showed the E. coli O157:H7 found in the canal water is closely related genetically to the E. coli O157:H7 from the ill people.”

It’s worth noting CAFOs are a major source of water contamination throughout the U.S. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality states, “Nationwide and in Arizona, the potential for surface and ground water pollution exists through livestock facility discharge of manure-contaminated runoff to natural waterways and through wastewater leaching to aquifers.”18

Lettuce Contamination Previously Traced to Nearby CAFO

It’s likely you are accustomed to hearing about pathogens in undercooked meat and you probably known you need to be cautious when handling raw chicken. That said, it might be difficult to understand how leafy greens like romaine lettuce can become tainted in a manner that could potentially cause a serious illness, or even death.

As mentioned above, the E. coli outbreak in the spring of 2018 appears to have been triggered by manure runoff from a nearby cattle farm that impacted a cluster of romaine lettuce farms nearby.19

In November 2018, the FDA issued a statement regarding an environmental assessment that confirmed the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in three samples of irrigation canal water collected as part of the Yuma investigation. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, said:20

“The environmental assessment … considers that the most likely way the romaine lettuce became contaminated was from the use of water from the irrigation canal, since the outbreak strain was not found in any of the other samples collected in the region.

How the water contaminated the lettuce is uncertain. But based on interviews with growers and pesticide applicators, possible explanations include direct application of irrigation canal water to the lettuce crop or the use of irrigation canal water to dilute crop-protection chemicals applied to the crops through both aerial and land-based spray applications.

We cannot rule out other ways the lettuce became contaminated. When and how the irrigation canal became contaminated with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 is also uncertain.

We know that a large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) is located adjacent to this stretch of the irrigation canal where the samples were collected. This is one potential source.”

It’s likely runoff from the CAFO’s manure lagoons entered and contaminated the canal, after which the E. coli-tainted water may have been used to irrigate the lettuce fields. In this scenario, it would be impossible to remove the bacterium by washing alone because the E. coli had likely become integral to the plant itself.

Given the reality a CAFO can hold in excess of 100,000 head of cattle at any one time,21 the potential for fecal runoff and contamination of nearby water supplies is quite high.

CAFO Pollution Continues to Endanger Public Health


CAFOs are a major source of pollution that threatens public health. Not only is CAFO meat far more prone to contamination with bacteria — including antibiotic-resistant strains, as evidenced by recent food tests — but these industrial farms also spread dangerous pathogens into the environment.

It’s well-known that farm animals create plenty of manure. Normally, this is not a problem, provided cows and other livestock are free to roam on open pasture. In that model, the manure gets trampled into the ground and becomes part of the natural, regenerative land management cycle.

CAFOs, on the other hand, crowd animals into tight spaces. As highlighted in the video above, the manure and urine from thousands of CAFO pigs housed in huge buildings are funneled into massive open-air retention ponds.22 Though hard to imagine, many of these so-called ponds are the size of three or four football fields.

Should these retention areas overflow or leak, such as happened when Hurricane Florence devastated North Carolina in September 2018, dangerous microbes and nitrate pollution enter the groundwater and nearby waterways. (For more information, check out my article “After the Hurricane: Swine Waste Swirls in North Carolina.”)

Equally horrific, the liquid waste from CAFO retention ponds is often sprayed directly into the air or onto nearby crops, showering homes and yards and damaging the health of countless individuals and families who live nearby. Given the reality North Carolina has thousands of CAFOs, the health-damaging potential of factory farms in that state alone is particularly alarming.

Filmmaker Mark Devries, who captured the drone footage for the video above, said, “I had previously seen these giant open-air cesspools of toxic manure from … up in an airplane … but with these drones, for the first time, I was able to see close-up how massive these facilities are and how close they are to people’s homes.”23

Emissions from lagoons, which are distributed by commercial sprinklers, have been linked to neurological and respiratory problems.

At the conclusion of his mini-documentary Devries says, “These thousands of lakes of toxic waste must be among the most bizarre and disturbing environmental phenomena that have ever confronted America.” I could not agree more. Learn more about the negative effects of CAFOs in my article “The Factory Farm Toilet.”

Ways to Safeguard Your Health When Eating Greens

While you may think washing your lettuce would eliminate the bacteria, the truth is it takes but a few cells of E. coli to make you sick. Despite the fact that rinsing your produce with water — even the brands that claim to be triple washed — may lower your risk of illness, it doesn’t eliminate your risk entirely.

Washing is no guarantee you will get rid of potential toxins. Beyond that, some experts suggest using commercial fruit and vegetable washes are not much more effective than water alone.24

Although some recommend a light bleach solution, I cannot recommend bleach for household cleaning applications and even less so for food preparation. The best way to ensure the cleanliness of your food and food preparation area is to apply common sense. Below are a few tips that will guide you in handling produce and other foods safely.25 Always:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before handling food, as well as after handling raw meat
  • Use a scrub brush to remove dirt and debris from root vegetables or any fruit or vegetable with a rough skin
  • Rinse all produce, even bagged varieties, well under running water
  • When chopping more than one type of food, wash your counter, cutting board and utensils frequently to avoid cross contamination

Because some of the people affected by lettuce-related E. coli outbreaks became ill after eating at restaurants that used bagged, prechopped lettuce in their salads,26 you can dramatically reduce your risk of infection simply by avoiding salads when dining out.

Eating more meals at home is another way to safeguard your health. Beyond that, since raw greens pose the most risk, you may decide to cook more of your greens to reduce your risk of contamination.

In my opinion, your very best option is to grow your own food. Whether that be in a vegetable garden, in containers or in trays, you won’t regret the time and energy you invest in cultivating healthy, homegrown food. The good news is greens such as lettuce are among the easiest garden vegetables to grow, and they are prolific.

By planting new seeds every couple of weeks, you can receive multiple harvests throughout the growing season. Depending on where you live, you may be able to grow certain greens year-round. If gardening is just not your thing, consider purchasing your greens from a local farmer or farmers market.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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