It's OK to eat some romaine lettuce again

Lynette PayneNov 29, 2018

Six counties make up the area - Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz.

The labelling 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. For romaine that doesn't come in packaging, grocers and retailers are being asked to post the information by the register.

Agency officials say consumers should check revamped labels that will now say where and when their romaine was grown. "This appears to have been accomplished through the market withdrawal request of November 20". There have been no reported deaths, but health officials say 43 people in 12 states have been sickened. In addition, 22 people in Canada became ill from the lettuce.

Narrowing down the source of the current outbreak is a priority for FDA and the industry, but it won't necessarily solve the industry's problems, nor clear up confusion for consumers.

"The outbreak appears to be related to "end of season" romaine lettuce harvested from these areas", it said. Specifically, current evidence indicates this romaine was harvested in the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California.

Romaine lettuce has been implicated in large and at times deadly E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks, a trend that appears to have intensified in recent years.

Romaine harvesting recently began shifting from California's Central Coast to winter growing areas, primarily Arizona, Florida, Mexico and California's Imperial Valley. Hydroponic lettuce and lettuce grown in greenhouses also do not appear to be affected by the outbreak.

It's OK to eat romaine lettuce again, the Food and Drug Administration said late Monday, lifting a nationwide ban on its sale and consumption but leaving it in place for a growing region in California.

Earlier this year, the situation was almost reversed: Some in the industry started putting stickers on product saying the lettuce was from California to differentiate from the Yuma region, though officials weren't able to pinpoint the problem to Yuma until right at the end of the season.

The FDA said it's also assembling a task force that will examine in the next 90 days which other greens need similar labeling, such as spinach and other types of lettuce, according to the Wall Street Journal.

However, if you don't know where the lettuce is from, do not eat it, the CDC said. It noted the labels are voluntary, and that it will monitor whether to expand the measure to other leafy greens and produce.

Twenty-two people in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick have been sickened by E. coli since October. There is usually a fever of less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit. But other cases are severe or even life-threatening, including among children and older adults with kidney failure. On top of that, Canada's Public Health Agency has identified patients infected with the same DNA fingerprint of E. coli.

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