The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are advising consumers to avoid eating romaine lettuce because it may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and could make people sick.
No grower, supplier, distributor or brand has been identified.
The FDA is conducting a traceback investigation, and the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association strongly urges the agency to determine the source of the contamination as quickly as possible.
South Florida’s romaine harvest season starts in early November, so Florida product was not being harvested when people started becoming ill. However, it is unfortunate that anyone has become sick, and remain concerned for those consumers, stated the FDA.
Safe production and handling of crops is the top priority for growers of Florida produce. They adhere to the highest mandatory food safety standards, testing and safeguards to ensure Florida produce is safe. They also open their operations to FDA representatives periodically for inspections.
In Canada Bamford Produce and Freshline Foods also made a statement regarding the E. coli outbreak:
Bamford Produce and Freshline Foods would like to inform all customers about an ongoing Public Health investigation effecting Ontario and Quebec.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, as well as the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA), to investigate an outbreak of E. coli infections in Ontario and Quebec, and several U.S. states. The Public Health Agency of Canada is advising individuals in Ontario and Quebec to avoid eating romaine lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce until more is known about the outbreak and the cause of contamination.
At this point in time no recall has been issued. We will be advising and updating all our customers as the situation changes and if any further action is required.
Effective immediately, Bamford Produce/ Freshline foods will cease shipments of ALL romaine products until further information is available. This will include the following items:
- Romaine 24 count
- Romaine hearts
- Chopped Romaine
- Spring mix/ Mesculin Blend
A group of produce industry associations made a statement regarding the E. coli outbreak as well:
In light of today’s announcement by government health agencies in the U.S. and Canada of an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine, a group of produce industry associations (listed below) is relying on producers and retail/restaurant customers to support the government health agency advisories and is urging an industry-wide voluntary withdrawal of all romaine currently in marketing channels and held in inventory.
Food safety is the produce industry's top priority. We must take swift action to protect consumers. #romaine
Food safety is our top priority. We must take swift action to protect consumers by stopping shipment of romaine lettuce and withdrawing any product that has been shipped to retail stores or restaurants.
We are echoing the government health agencies’ advice to consumers, restaurants and retailers not to eat, serve or sell romaine lettuce at this time. The FDA is further advising consumers to throw away any romaine they may have in their homes.
In order to be sure that any romaine lettuce that may have been responsible for illnesses is completely gone, we are urging full compliance with the government’s request for a voluntary withdrawal of all romaine.
We believe a withdrawal of romaine lettuce is the fastest way to clear up the supply chain of any romaine that could be responsible for illnesses and to make a hard, convincing and clean break from harvesting and shipping romaine lettuce until this outbreak is declared over or the source of the implicated produce can be identified. Additionally, we are calling on handlers to clean and sanitize any equipment that may have been used in recent weeks to prevent cross-contamination of product during future harvest, processing and distribution activities.
A group of food safety experts from the produce industry is coming together as quickly as possible to closely examine information that may help pinpoint the specific source of the outbreak utilizing the extensive traceback information maintained by leafy greens producers.
The goal of this effort is to learn any information about the geographic region or specific farms that may be tied to this outbreak. Government agencies have indicated the E. coli isolate involved in this outbreak has been closely related by Whole Genome Sequencing data to two past outbreaks linked to leafy greens in 2016 and 2017.
No one wants to get to the bottom of how these outbreaks are occurring faster than the producers of leafy greens. We absolutely must do everything possible to stop recurring outbreaks. We owe this to those whose lives have been tragically impacted by this outbreak and to all our consumers who trust us to grow safe food for their families.
It should be noted this outbreak and the consumer advisories are limited to romaine lettuce only and do not impact other leafy greens products such as iceberg, green leaf or spinach.
- Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement
- California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement
- Produce Marketing Association
- United Fresh Produce Association
- Western Growers
- Yuma Safe Produce Council
- Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association