Should we be eating packaged salads?

Over the past four months, five people have died and 197 have fallen ill across the country as a result of E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce, most of it sold chopped and bagged.

According to Vox, a June 1 update on the outbreak from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of these food poisoning patients had to be hospitalized, including 26 people who developed a severe form of kidney failure. All told, the outbreak hit 35 states, with the five deaths occurring in Arkansas, California, Minnesota, and New York.

Convenience salads are particularly risky. “Historically, the large E. coli outbreaks linked to leafy greens have all been [caused by] prewashed, chopped, bagged salads,” said Bill Marler, a prominent food safety attorney. “[These] mass-produced, washed, bagged, chopped leafy greens that get sent around the country have a lot more risk than people realize.”

It might be time to start rethinking whether packaged lettuces are really worth the risk.