Romaine lettuce is a staple in many home and restaurant kitchens, but shoppers found the crispy green vegetable difficult to locate in late 2018. As an outbreak of E. coli-tainted romaine began to make headlines, it was pulled from store shelves and restaurant delivery trucks all over the country. By the time the source of contamination was traced back to a California farm, and sales could be restarted, more than 60 people had been infected and dozens had been hospitalized.
While the romaine case drew an inordinate amount of attention, it underscores the massive combined impact of foodborne diseases. In the U.S. alone, they make about 50 million people sick annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, more than 100,000 are hospitalized and about 3,000 die.