(With Updates) CDC Food Safety Alert: Romaine Lettuce

(With Updates) CDC Food Safety Alert: Romaine Lettuce

South Dakota Retailers Association

December 13, 2018 Investigation Update -

The FDA, along with CDC, state and local agencies, is investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses linked to romaine lettuce grown in California this fall. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are also coordinating with U.S. agencies as they investigate a similar outbreak in Canada.

As of December 13, FDA has further refined the traceback investigation down to the farm level, which narrows the list of romaine growing areas that FDA recommends consumers and retailers avoid down to the following counties: Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Barbara.

San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz and Ventura counties in California have been removed from the list at this time. Other growing areas, for example Florida, Mexico and the desert growing regions near Yuma and Imperial County, Riverside County do not appear to be related to the current outbreak.

Investigation teams from FDA’s Produce Safety Network, California Department of Public Health, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the CDC analyzed romaine lettuce, soil, water, sediment, and animal dropping samples at farms identified by the traceback investigation. Most of these samples tested negative for the outbreak strain, with some samples still undergoing analysis. However, the strain of E. coli O157:H7 causing the current outbreak was identified in one sample collected in the sediment of an agricultural water reservoir at one ranch owned and operated by Adam Bros. Farming, Inc., in Santa Barbara County. The strain isolated from this sample matched those collected from ill persons in this outbreak using Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS). The FDA is able to confirm that Adam Bros. Farming, Inc. hasn’t shipped any romaine since November 20, 2018. Experts are working with the farm to determine how contamination occurred and what corrective actions need to be taken before their next growing season.

Adams Bros is cooperating with the FDA and CDC in this outbreak investigation. They have committed to recalling products that may have come into contact with water from the water reservoir where the outbreak strain was found.

The finding on this farm, however, does not explain all illnesses. The FDA’s traceback activities of romaine lettuce will continue as FDA works to determine what commonalities this farm may have with other farms and areas that are being assessed as part of the investigation.

This information allows FDA to modify its recommendations slightly. Given the identification of the outbreak pathogen on the one farm, the location of farms identified in the traceback, and the fact that the lettuce on the market at the peak of the outbreak should be beyond shelf life, there is no longer a reason for consumers to avoid romaine from San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz and Ventura Counties, in California, provided it was harvested after November 23, 2018. The traceback investigation is still ongoing and additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

Recommendation:

Based on discussions with producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be voluntarily labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date or labeled as being hydroponically- or greenhouse-grown. If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it.

If romaine lettuce does have this labeling information, we advise avoiding any product from Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Barbara counties in California. Romaine lettuce from outside those counties need not be avoided. Consumers may notice that romaine lettuce is beginning to be available in stores with new labeling. Additionally, romaine from Ventura, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz counties harvested after November 23, 2018 should be labeled with harvest area and harvest date, allowing it to be distinguished from romaine lettuce that should be avoided.

Romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Barbara counties in California does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine harvested from these sources.


December 3, 2018: Best Practices Information from Food Marketing Institute -

Click here for a set of best practices created by FMI and its outside law firm for companies that wish to adopt the voluntary labeling recommendations.


November 30, 2018: Update From FDA -

FDA Investigating Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 Infections Likely Linked to Romaine Lettuce Grown in California

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with Centers for Disease Control (DC), state and local agencies, is investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses likely linked to romaine lettuce grown in California this fall. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency are also coordinating with U.S. agencies as they investigate a similar outbreak in Canada.

Traceback activities in this romaine lettuce investigation are ongoing and new information continues to be gathered. Analysis of information available through November 30 has not narrowed the potential sources of contaminated romaine lettuce to a specific farm, processor, shipper, or distribution center. Given the widespread distribution of farms, processors, shippers, and distribution centers identified by our traceback, the FDA continues to recommend that consumers not eat romaine lettuce grown in the identified counties until the investigation identifies a source or sources to explain the outbreak. Additional counties may be added or removed as the FDA romaine investigation progresses. Updates will be provided as new information becomes available.

Romaine harvested from locations outside of the California regions identified by the traceback investigation does not appear to be related to the current outbreak.

There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine lettuce that is certain to have been harvested from areas outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. For example, romaine lettuce harvested from areas that include, but are not limited to the desert growing region near Yuma, the California desert growing region near Imperial County and Riverside County, the state of Florida, and Mexico, does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Additionally, there is no evidence hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine is related to the current outbreak.

During this new stage of the investigation, it is vital that consumers and retailers have an easy way to identify romaine lettuce by both harvest date and harvest location. Labeling with this information on each bag of romaine or signage in stores where labels are not an option would easily differentiate for consumers romaine from unaffected growing regions.

Recommendation:

Based on discussions with producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date, or labeled as being hydroponically- or greenhouse-grown. If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it.

If romaine lettuce does have this labeling information, we advise avoiding any product from the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. Romaine lettuce from outside those regions need not be avoided.

Romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine harvested from these sources.


November 21, 2018: CDC Food Safety Alert -

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are calling for the removal of romaine lettuce from the food supply.

The CDC is advising consumers, restaurants and retailers not to eat, serve, or sell any romaine lettuce as it investigates a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to romaine. Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing romaine. Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should throw it away even if some of it was eaten and no one has become sick.

For more information including E. coli infection symptoms, visit the CDC website at  https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2018/o157h7-11-18/index.html.

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