Yikes! Listeria Might Be Lurking in Your Lettuce

A recent study finds something incredibly scary for pregnant women: Listeria might be hiding out inside the tissue of your romaine lettuce. 

romaine lettuce listeria risk CKP1001/Shutterstock
You're well aware that noshing on the green stuff is a great idea when you're pregnant—after all, you can't get too many nutrients when you're growing a tiny human inside of you! But here's one reason to think twice about a certain kind of salad: A new study finds that romaine lettuce might contain traces of listeria hiding out in its tissue.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from Purdue University and appears in the Journal of Food Protection, indicates that washing lettuce thoroughly might not be enough to get rid of the listeria monocytogenes that can hide in its tissue. This is scary (and, well, kind of gross) for everyone, but pregnant women should pay particularly close attention: Listeria is especially dangerous for pregnant women—they're more susceptible to illness, and the bacterium could lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or preterm delivery. Needless to say, if you're pregnant you want to do everything in your power to avoid these harmful effects.

Listeria can reportedly make its way into the lettuce through cracked seed coats or tears in the root tissue. According to the researchers, listeria can infect the plant in as little as 30 minutes.

Romaine isn't the only food item that's vulnerable to listeria: The bacterium is commonly found in things like celery, cantaloupe, deli meat, hot dogs, sprouts and apples.

"Knowing this can happen, we need to keep it on our radar as we continue to follow good agricultural practices," clinical researcher Amanda Deering said in a release for this news. "For immune-compromised consumers, it's important to remember that canned or cooked produce is better."