April 25, 2019

US Health Officials Say It’s OK To Eat Some Romaine Again

03 December 2018, 07:43 | Randall Craig

US Health Officials Say It’s OK To Eat Some Romaine Again

Romaine lettuce at a grocery store in Toronto Canada on Nov 21 2018. US officials said that some parts of California are most likely responsible for recent cases of lettuce contamination

The CDC and Food and Drug Administration initially put a warning out for all types of romaine lettuce, regardless of brand, as they had been unable to determine if the E. coli outbreak originated from a certain romaine producer.

Major distributors in the leafy greens industry - including Fresh Express, Dole, and Taylor Farms - have agreed to voluntarily label the region in which their romaine lettuce was grown as well as the date after which it was harvested.

The FDA said there was no reason to believe that the romaine lettuce being grown in other large growing regions, including the California desert region of the Imperial Valley; the desert region of Arizona in and around Yuma; and Florida, would be contaminated. Gottlieb confirmed over the weekend that the outbreak is likely tied to California-grown lettuce, but the government hasn't yet amended its advisory. So far, 32 people from 11 states across the US have reportedly fallen sick after consuming Romaine lettuce. There have been no reported deaths, but health officials say 43 people in 12 states have been sickened. The group submitted an official letter to FDA Commissioners and Directors to gain clearance on retail shelves by proposing the addition of growing regions and harvest dates to their packaging. FDA plans to increase its communications efforts on this matter and scheduled a call the afternoon of November 26 with state departments of agriculture to advise of the new guidance. Additional public health advice to residents in impacted provinces is also included in this updated notice. Investigators are using evidence collected in both outbreaks to help identify the possible cause of the contamination in these events.

However, if you don't know where the lettuce is from, do not eat it, the CDC said.

Empty store shelves after a nationwide E-coli outbreak prompted the disposal of all romaine produce products at the Smart & Final grocery in Newport Beach California on Nov 21 2018
US Health Officials Say It’s OK To Eat Some Romaine Again

The investigation continues into where the recent romaine lettuce containing a strain of E. coli bacteria originated. Twenty days is the average amount of time that passes between when a person falls ill and when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is alerted, according to the FDA. Leafy greens, such as lettuce, can become contaminated in the field by soil, water, animals or improperly composted manure. But officials in Canada identified romaine as a common source of illnesses there. Consumers that have any of symptoms related to E.coli should talk to their healthcare provider and report their illness to the health department. Thirteen people have been hospitalized.

It is hard to know whether a product is contaminated with E. coli because you can't see, smell or taste it. Romaine lettuce can have a shelf life of up to five weeks, and therefore it is possible that contaminated romaine lettuce purchased over the past few weeks may still be in your home.

If you would like to find out more information, you can contact your nearest state and district health office accessible via the Health Ministry's portal here, or you could get in touch with the Malaysian Food and Safety Quality Division via Facebook here.

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