Published: Tue, November 27, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Coli in Ottawa, linked to outbreak

Coli in Ottawa, linked to outbreak

Last week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a blanket warning to avoid all romaine and advised consumers, restaurants and markets to destroy any on hand. The FDA will also start to sample romaine lettuce for contamination throughout the food supply chain.

The vast majority of the romaine on the market was being grown in the Central Coast region of California at the time of the outbreak, according to the statement.

"Our investigation at this point suggests that romaine lettuce associated with the outbreak comes from areas of California that grow romaine lettuce over the summer months, and that the outbreak appears to be related to "end of season" romaine lettuce harvested from these areas", the FDA said in a statement. The CDC estimates 265,000 cases a year of illness from Shiga toxins from E. coli spread by animals and people, but just 30 deaths. For romaine that doesn't come in packaging, grocers and retailers are being asked to post the information by the register. Romaine harvesting has ended there for the year and has since shifted to winter growing regions including Florida, Mexico and desert regions in California and Arizona. So far, 32 people from 11 states across the US have reportedly fallen sick after consuming Romaine lettuce.

The labelling arrangement was worked out as the produce industry called on the FDA to quickly narrow the scope of its warning so it wouldn't have to waste freshly harvested romaine. It says romaine from those places wasn't yet shipping when the illnesses began.

After posting the advisory Tuesday, the FDA investigated the outbreak over the Thanksgiving holiday period.

The leafy greens industry agreed to establish a task force for solutions for long-term labeling of romaine lettuce and other leafy greens. "One outcome could be to extend the commitment for labeling for origin and date of harvest to other leafy greens".

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Even though romaine from the Yuma, Arizona, region is not implicated in the current outbreak, it was blamed for an E. coli outbreak this spring that sickened more than 200 people and killed five.

"Romaine as a category has had a year that's been unfortunate", Whitaker said. But officials in Canada identified romaine as a common source of illnesses there.

The FDA said the E. coli O157:H7 strain causing the outbreak is similar to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in the fall of 2017.

The agreement was signed by major romaine producers Church Brothers/True Leaf Farms, Dole Fresh Vegetables, Earthbound Farm Organic, FiveStar Gourmet Foods/Simply Fresh, Fresh Express, and Taylor Farms, and supported by trade groups that include the United Fresh Produce Association, Produce Marketing Association, and Western Growers.

Since romaine has a shelf life of about 21 days, health officials said last week they believed contaminated romaine could still be on the market or in people's homes.

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