It’s OK to eat some romaine lettuce again, FDA says

Amid outbreak lettuce growers conform to label the place romaine is grown			 0					By		Marta Subat

Though there is likely romaine lettuce coming from non-contaminated regions in the United States, the FDA says the USA market should have a "clean break" in the romaine lettuce supply chain in order to ensure that all possibly contaminated lettuce is purged from the market. 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.

Now the FDA has linked the tainted lettuce to the "end of season" harvest in California's Central Coast Region. Since then, harvesting of romaine has ended and shifted to the winter growing regions, which include the California desert region of the Imperial Valley, the desert region of Arizona in and around Yuma, and Florida, Gottlieb's statement said.

That's up from 32 people sickened, including 13 hospitalized, in 11 states last week, and there could be more cases coming. Due to personal health information restrictions, OPH can not provide any additional information about the case, however, the person did report consumption of romaine lettuce. 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.

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.

Also safe are romaine lettuces grown hydroponically, those grown in greenhouses as well as those grown in Mexico during the winter months and smaller quantities in other states.

Now, the Malaysian Ministry of Health has issued a statement yesterday (26th November), confirming that Malaysia does import Romaine lettuce from the US and the ministry has been screening the imported lettuce using the "Stop, Test, and Release" protocol that was initiated on 23rd November.

The leafy greens industry agreed to establish a task force for solutions for long-term labeling of romaine lettuce and other leafy greens.

"Based on further discussions with the leafy greens industry and with agricultural authorities, we have begun to narrow the location in which we believe the contaminated romaine in the current outbreak was grown", Gottlieb said. "One outcome could be to extend the commitment for labeling for origin and date of harvest to other leafy greens".

While some growers are happy with the scaled-back regulations (and the ability to stave off the costly testing process for at least a few more years), the at least 210 people recovering from E. coli linked to what is generally considered a health food likely have a different opinion of the current administration's cuts.

Leafy greens were also blamed for an E. coli outbreak a year ago.

The most significant symptoms are severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea and while the majority of diners sickened get well in five to seven days, five to 10 percent develop a potentially life-threatening type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

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