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US: New findings and status of the romaine E. coli O157:H7 outbreak investigation

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is providing an update on our investigation of an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses linked to romaine lettuce. The FDA takes its responsibility of protecting the public from unsafe food very seriously and is committed to providing the public with more information as it becomes available.

Outbreaks Reported
Early on, based on test results provided by the Maryland Department of Health, our investigation pointed to farms in Salinas, California, as potential sources of contaminated romaine lettuce based on the initial, limited number of reported illnesses. The FDA, in partnership with the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, rapidly mobilized in November to concurrently deploy inspection teams to the farms identified through the initial traceback investigation.

The on-site investigations at these farms included collecting a wide-variety of samples for lab testing, including water, soil, soil amendments, scat and swab samples. While the majority of these samples tested negative for the outbreak strain, final results are pending and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently reported that it had isolated E. coli O157:H7 from a particular bag of pre-washed, chopped romaine lettuce.

The FDA has also been tracking two additional and separate outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7.

Earlier this week, the FDA, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced an outbreak linked to Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits. To date, the CDC reported eight confirmed cases in the U.S. across three states associated with this cluster of illnesses.The Public Health Agency of Canada also reports 24 cases in six Canadian provinces.

Concurrently, the FDA has been working with health officials in Washington State regarding an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 associated with romaine consumption at a local restaurant chain. Washington State officials reported 10 confirmed and three probable cases in this outbreak with all reports of exposure in early to mid-November.

It should be noted; these are currently being considered as three separate outbreaks caused by three different strains of E. coli O157:H7.

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