Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new information about the most recent Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from California.
So far, the traceback investigation from four restaurants in three different states have implicated that 10 distributors, 12 growers, and 11 farms could all be potential sources of the contaminated romaine lettuce. The information makes one thing clear: no single farm, harvester, grower, or distributor is solely linked to this outbreak.
Asides from the FDA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the traceback investigation has also been aided by FDA’s Produce Safety Network (PSN). PSN includes regionally-based personnel from FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition that provide region-specific expertise on produce safety policy and science, and regionally-based personnel from FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs that specialize in conducting produce safety inspections and investigations. Members of the PSN work together to support industry and government partners on implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.
On November 23rd, PSN, along with CDC, the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, began conducting on-site investigations of farms and lettuce cooling facilities in California that have been identified by the FDA, state, and Canadian tracebacks. The investigation teams have been collecting romaine lettuce, soil, water, and scat samples. To date, E. coli O157:H7 has not been found in any of the lettuce, soil or scat samples. Results of water testing being conducted by CDC are pending.
As of December 6, FDA says that 52 people have been sickened in this outbreak, and 19 people have been hospitalized.
The traceback investigation is ongoing and additional information will be provided as it becomes available.