US officials think they have traced the origin of the lettuce involved in the last outbreak of E. coli


The US Food and Drug Administration believes it has traced the source of the latest outbreak of E. coli. The agency said on Monday the lettuce linked to the outbreak appeared to be from central California. He said the romaine from elsewhere should be labeled with harvest dates and regions so people know it is safe to eat.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it is continuing its own joint research with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Health Canada (HC) in the current outbreak of E. coli O157. But he advised the Canadian food industry, including importers, not to import Roma lettuce from suspected areas identified by the FDA until further notice.

The CFIA is also implementing additional control measures to ensure that products from central California are not admitted to Canada, including increased scrutiny of the product destined for this country.

Twenty-two people in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have been ill with E. coli since October. Forty-three people in 12 US states also became ill.

Labeling changes

In the US, the FDA is advising people not to eat romaine that does not have clear labeling information stating where the product is from. For romaine that does not come in the packaging, marketers and retailers are being asked to post the information by registration.

The Roman lettuce crop has recently begun moving from the central California coast to winter farming areas, most notably Arizona, Florida, Mexico, and Imperial Valley, California. Those winter regions were still not being dispatched when diseases began. The FDA also noted that hydroponic cultivated Roman lettuce and romaine grown in greenhouses are not implicated in the outbreak.

The labeling arrangement was drafted as the manufacturing industry asked the FDA to quickly narrow the scope of its notice so it would not have to waste freshly harvested romaine. An industry group said people can expect to start seeing labels already this week. He noted that the labels are voluntary and will monitor whether the measure should be expanded to other hardwood and produced vegetables.

At least 22 people in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick became ill in the outbreak. (Matthew Mead / Associated Press)

The FDA said the industry is committed to making the labeling standard for romaine and consider long-term labeling options for other vegetables.

Robert Whitaker, scientific director of the Produce Marketing Association, said labeling of romaine could help limit the scope of future alerts and rebuild public confidence after other outbreaks.

"Romaine as a category has had an unfortunate year," said Whitaker.

The FDA has yet to identify a source of contamination in the latest outbreak.

Canadian officials are warning the food industry and importers not to import romaine from the California region identified by the FDA. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP / Getty Images)

Although lettuce from the Yuma region of Arizona was not implicated in the current outbreak, it was blamed for an E. coli outbreak this spring that left more than 200 people sick and killed five people. Contaminated irrigation water near a lot of cattle was subsequently identified as the likely source.

Leafy greens were also blamed for an E. coli outbreak last year. US researchers have never specified which green salad could be to blame for these diseases, which happened around the same time of year as the current outbreak. But Canadian officials have identified Romany as a common source of illness in Canada.


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