By Gaby Wellman (‘20)

After several cases of E. coli O157: H7 contamination, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide ban on all Romaine lettuce on November 20, 2018. After further investigation, the warning has been limited to Romaine lettuce growing in California.

Despite the fact that there are four other types of lettuce, the limited availability and the elevated prices on this heavily sought-after product persist.

Despite the catastrophe, San Diego Jewish Academy students like Kate Aizin (‘22) had a comical reaction. She says, “What are they gonna get rid of next, kale!?” However, the Internet is overflowing with a bounty of stories with people that have had life-changing and difficult experiences because of this E. coli outbreak. One of these victims is Karen Odens, who contracted E.Coli and died. Additionally, 4 years earlier her 4-year-old daughter had contracted the same disease.

The outbreak has had an especially troublesome effect on one of SDJA’s own students, Eli Lerner (‘22). “My turtle is dying,” he said, “and there is nothing I can do about it.”

Screen Shot 2018-12-20 at 2.57.20 PM
Lemmy the turtle eating romaine lettuce, the only food he likes. Photo: Eli Lerner (‘22)

Eli and Lemmy grew up together ever since Eli was seven years old. When Lemmy was first introduced into Eli’s life, Eli found great difficulty in feeding him. He tried to nurture his new pet by feeding him many fruits and vegetables but the only thing that the turtle would eat was Romaine lettuce.

“The worst part is, Lemmy was a miracle turtle,” says Gil Zucker-Abudi (‘22). A few months after the Lerner family purchased Lemmy, the turtle was diagnosed with cancer. He was not expected to live more than a few months. However, contrary to the doctor’s belief, Lemmy survived and thrived.

The future does not look bright for Lemmy. “If romaine lettuce is the thing that kills him,” Lerner said, “then his battle against cancer will have been for nothing.”

As of this writing, the E. Coli warning has been expanded to include cauliflower. Some news sources have traced the outbreak to farms in Arizona. As for Lemmy, there is nothing more to do now than to hope that the Romaine lettuce situation quickly returns to normal. Hopefully, consumers will soon be able to shop for their favorite vegetables again without fear. 

Meanwhile, lettuce pray for Lemmy the turtle.

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