You can eat some romaine lettuce; check labels — CDC

Faith Castro
December 3, 2018

The agency warned the public last Tuesday not to eat any romaine lettuce after dozens of people were reported sick - including some who were hospitalized - because of an E.coli outbreak connected to the food.

In a November 26 conference call, FDA said it would allow shipments and sales of Romaine lettuce harvested from areas outside the central coast growing regions of Central and Northern California.

If it's from the winter-growing regions of the US - the California desert region of the Imperial Valley, the desert region of Arizona in and around Yuma and Florida - it's fine, since people started getting sick before these regions started shipping out their product. The FDA also noted hydroponically grown romaine and romaine grown in greenhouses aren't implicated in the outbreak.

Both the FDA and the CDC are investigating the outbreak of E.coli from romaine lettuce and urging consumers to not eat it and instead, throw it away.

The FDA is continuing tracebacks of romaine lettuce from locations where impacted consumers purchased or consumed romaine lettuce before they became ill in order to identify specific locations that are the likely source of the outbreak and to determine the factors that resulted in contamination.

Empty store shelves after a nationwide E-coli outbreak prompted the disposal of all romaine produce products at the Smart & Final grocery in Newport Beach California on Nov 21 2018

The outbreak has sickened 43 people in 12 states, plus 22 people in Canada, according to the FDA. The industry says the change was in place for lettuce now being grown in Yuma, which hasn't been implicated in the latest outbreak. "One outcome could be to extend the commitment for labeling for origin and date of harvest to other leafy greens". Additionally, FDA and states are conducting laboratory analysis of romaine lettuce samples potentially linked to the current outbreak.

Authorities in Canada are also helping with the continent-wide investigation, including the CFIA's continued sampling of all produce through its ongoing microbiological surveillance programs for imported fresh vegetables and salads.

The particular strain of E. coli discovered in romaine lettuce produces Shiga toxins, which are among the most potent toxins known to exist, and which can lead to severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. Leafy greens, such as lettuce, can become contaminated in the field by soil, water, animals or improperly composted manure. As no contaminated product has been found in the marketplace and the source of the contamination has not been identified, there have been no product recalls in Canada or the U.S associated with this outbreak. However, some people may have a more serious illness that requires hospital care, or long-lasting health effects.

If you would like to find out more information, you can contact your nearest state and district health office accessible via the Health Ministry's portal here, or you could get in touch with the Malaysian Food and Safety Quality Division via Facebook here.

The current outbreak, the one from Yuma and the one from past year were caused by contamination of an E. coli strain known as O157:H7.

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