It’s OK to eat some romaine lettuce again, FDA says

It’s OK to eat some romaine lettuce again, FDA says

Just check the label.

The agency warned the public last Tuesday not to eat any romaine lettuce after dozens of people were reported sick - including some who were hospitalized - because of an E.coli outbreak connected to the food.

Now that winter has settled into applicable parts of the USA, romaine lettuce crops have transitioned to desert regions in California and Arizona, as well as Florida. Twenty-five of those experiencing symptoms were interviewed, and 22 reported having eaten Romaine lettuce in the days leading up to the onset of their illness. Laboratory analysis indicates that the illnesses reported in this outbreak are genetically related to illnesses reported in a previous E. coli outbreakfrom December 2017 that affected consumers in both Canada and the U.S. This tells us that the same strain of E. coli is causing illness in Canada and the United States as was seen in 2017 and it suggests there may be a reoccurring source of contamination. "One outcome could be to extend the commitment for labeling for origin and date of harvest to other leafy greens". Retailers are also being asked to discontinue selling romaine lettuce, which is why shoppers no longer see it on store shelves.

Romaine lettuce harvested outside those regions "does not appear to be related to the current outbreak", the FDA said. Hydroponic lettuce and lettuce grown in greenhouses also do not appear to be affected by the outbreak.

The labeling arrangement was worked out as the produce industry called on the FDA to quickly narrow the scope of its warning so it wouldn't have to waste freshly harvested romaine.

The labeling is voluntary, and the industry said it will evaluate whether to extend it to other leafy greens.

Teressa Lopez of the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement also said federal regulation can ensure greater compliance, even though the industry agreement has stricter measures. "Since, then harvesting of romaine lettuce from this region has ended for the year".

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

With regard to Romaine used in foodservice applications, the restaurant or other establishment is considered the end-user and must verify the product was sourced from approved areas but need not include signage, according to FDA.

Authorities in Canada are also helping with the continent-wide investigation, including the CFIA's continued sampling of all produce through its ongoing microbiological surveillance programs for imported fresh vegetables and salads. As no contaminated product has been found in the marketplace and the source of the contamination has not been identified, there have been no product recalls in Canada or the U.S associated with this outbreak.

Investigators have been tracing back the romaine eaten by people sickened in the outbreak.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the FDA continued to investigate the outbreak.

It's now safe to eat some romaine lettuce, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Monday.

"To have something repeat in this way, there simply must be some environmental source that persisted", she said.

Canadian officials are advising the food industry and importers not to import romaine from the California region identified by the FDA. Steps include expanding buffer zones between cattle lots and produce fields. Individuals in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick should avoid eating romaine lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce until more is known about the outbreakand the cause of contamination. Compared with iceberg lettuce, she noted its leaves are more open, thus exposing more surface area.

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