Following a risky outbreak of E. coli traced to romaine lettuce that sickened 32 people across 11 states, major leafy-greens producers agreed to label their packed romaine by region or state and by harvest date.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the new E. coli O157:H7 strain that has impacted consumers in both the United States and Canada originated from various romaine lettuce farms in California.
The FDA also said the market appears to have been successfully purged of potentially contaminated romaine lettuce related to the outbreak thanks to the market withdrawal request of November 20.
"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.
"Romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California does not appear to be related to the current outbreak, ' Gottlieb said". 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.
The labeling 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. There have been no reported deaths, but health officials say 43 people in 12 states have been sickened. So far, 32 people from 11 states across the USA have reportedly fallen sick after consuming Romaine lettuce.
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. If you don't know if your lettuce is romaine, play it safe and toss it, too.
There is no recall of romaine lettuce in British Columbia, but several Island retailers have removed the item from store shelves or replaced it with romaine grown in area's known not to be have been affected by the outbreak.
This is because of an outbreak of E. Coli (a pathogenic bacteria) that contaminated a large batch of this lettuce.
At least 22 people in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick have been sickened in the outbreak.
Local growers in California and Arizona-the two states producing well over the majority of the nation's leafy greens-have recognized the public health crisis posed by contaminated irrigation water, and thus some have taken steps to alleviate the issue.
The FDA said the industry committed to making the labeling standard for romaine and to consider longer-term labeling options for other leafy greens. It produces a Shiga toxin that in severe cases can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
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