Medical

Coli outbreak potentially linked to farms in California, FDA says

Coli outbreak potentially linked to farms in California, FDA says

The recent moratorium on Romaine lettuce sales was set to be eased November 26 by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which is in the process of issuing new guidance for the industry following an outbreak of E. coli that has been attributed to Romaine lettuce.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he thinks the combination of rules, once fully in place, will make vegetables safer to eat. The agency hasn't identified a source of contamination.

Through laboratory studies they have identified that the E. coli O157:H7 strain causing the outbreak is similar to one that produced an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in the fall of 2017 that also occurred in the US and Canada, which was associated with consumption of leafy greens in the USA and specifically romaine lettuce in Canada.

The agency on Monday said romaine recently harvested in Arizona, Florida, Mexico, and California's Imperial Valley is OK to eat. Additionally, FDA and states are conducting laboratory analysis of romaine lettuce samples potentially linked to the current outbreak.

Federal health officials said on Monday (Nov 26) that only romaine lettuce from certain parts of California is unsafe to eat and romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labelled to give consumers information about when and where it was harvested.

At least 22 people in Ontario Quebec and New Brunswick have been sickened in the outbreak
At least 22 people in Ontario Quebec and New Brunswick have been sickened in the outbreak

The updated information follows an unusually broad warning that federal health officials issued two days before Thanksgiving, telling consumers to throw away any romaine lettuce they may already have purchased. The involved areas include the Central Coast growing regions of central and northern California. Residents in impacted provinces are also advised to discard any romaine lettuce in their home, and to properly wash and sanitize any containers or bins that have come in contact with romaine lettuce. "The CDC has called out romaine - they didn't call out any other kind of lettuce or leafy green", Detwiler says.

Even though romaine from the Yuma, Ariz., region is not implicated in the current outbreak, it was blamed for an E. coli outbreak this spring that sickened more than 200 people and killed five. If heads of romaine are being sold unwrapped, retailers are expected to prominently label the produce display, Gottlieb said.

Despite industry measures implemented after a spinach outbreak more than a decade ago, health officials noted this month there have been 28 E. coli outbreaks linked to leafy greens since 2009. The FDA's Gottlieb has said the leading suspect is contaminated canal water used by multiple farms.

The FDA said the produce industry also agreed to consider longer-term labeling options that would help identify and trace leafy greens.

States affected by the E.coli outbreak include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. US investigators never specified which salad green might be to blame for those illnesses, which happened around the same time of year as the current outbreak.