E. coli Outbreak in Romaine Lettuce

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E. coli Outbreak in Romaine Lettuce

Emma Weber and Caroline Darling

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The Center for Disease Control issued a warning to American consumers to refrain from purchasing, eating, and obtaining Romaine Lettuce due to an outbreak of E. coli in it in the United States. The CDC has traced the recent E. coli outbreak to growers in the Central Coastal region of California. Lettuce from other parts of the U.S. and from Mexico are safe to eat, but if there is little labeling on the package it is still recommended that the lettuce be thrown out (NPR). The specific counties in the Central Coastal region include Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Ventura (FDA). There was an E. coli outbreak just months ago, though it was traced to a canal in Arizona which means that the outbreaks were not related.

43 people from 12 states have been infected, though no deaths have been reported, yet the warning has been narrowed since last week. Now, the CDC is recommending checking the lettuce for a label indicating it was harvested in a region outside of the Central Coastal region of California. Similarly, lettuce grown in a greenhouse or hydroponically is also safe to eat (NPR).

Moving forward, the FDA believes that fully implementing the Food Modernization and Safety Act would help combat the issue. Within the piece of legislation, there is a Food Safety Rule that will improve agricultural conditions. One of the main issues with the E. coli outbreak is the inability to trace break which farm/ranch the lettuce came from. Fully implementing this legislation could help provide transparency in this aspect (FDA).

The FDA’s future plans are to conduct more research involving Romaine Lettuce samples. As a next step they plan to use new special surveillance assignment for contamination with human pathogens. The main purpose of this research is to better determine which products are safe to enter the market.

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