Romaine Lettuce Outbreak Highlights Safety Measures in Produce Industry

After steady food poisoning outbreaks related to romaine lettuce, a furnish attention is opposed a disaster of a possess reserve measures in preventing contaminations.

The E. coli conflict announced usually before Thanksgiving follows one in a open that disgusted some-more than 200 people and killed five, and another final year that disgusted 25 and killed one. No deaths have been reported in a latest outbreak, yet a dozens of illnesses prominence a plea of expelling risk for vegetables grown in open fields and eaten raw, a purpose of circuitously cattle operations that furnish outrageous volumes of fertiliser and a check of stricter sovereign food reserve regulations.

A contested aspect of a regulation, for example, would need contrast irrigation H2O for E. coli. The Food and Drug Administration put a magnitude on reason when a furnish attention pronounced such tests wouldn’t indispensably assistance forestall outbreaks. Additional regulations on sanitation for workers and apparatus – other intensity sources of decay – usually recently started being implemented.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb pronounced he thinks a multiple of rules, once entirely in place, will make vegetables safer to eat.

“I don’t consider any one component of this is going to be a sorcery bullet,” Gottlieb said.

Health officials contend softened showing competence make outbreaks seem some-more frequent. Still, that is heightening vigour on growers and regulators to prevent, locate and enclose contamination.


It’s not nonetheless famous how romaine got infested in a latest outbreak.

The open conflict was traced to romaine from Yuma, Arizona. Irrigation H2O sinister with fertiliser was identified as a expected culprit, and investigators remarkable a participation of a vast animal feeding operation nearby.

Subsequently, an attention agreement in Arizona and California was practiced to enhance aegis zones between unfeeling fields and livestock. The attention says a change was in place for lettuce now being grown in Yuma, that hasn’t been concerned in a latest outbreak. But Trevor Suslow of a Produce Marketing Association pronounced there isn’t accord about a accurate distances that competence effectively forestall contamination.

He remarkable specific aegis zones aren’t compulsory by a new sovereign manners on furnish safety.

“They demeanour to a attention to establish what is a suitable distance,” Suslow said.

Growers in Yuma also started treating irrigation H2O that would hold plant leaves with chlorine to kill intensity contaminants, Suslow said. But he pronounced such diagnosis raises concerns about dirt and tellurian health.

Meanwhile, a vicinity of furnish fields to cattle operations is expected to continue posing a problem. Travis Forgues of a divert writer Organic Valley remarkable converging in a dairy attention is heading to bigger stock operations that furnish large volumes of manure.

Already, a attention agreement in Arizona and California requires shaggy immature growers to exam H2O for general E. coli.

But James Rogers, executive of food reserve investigate during Consumer Reports, pronounced it’s critical to make H2O contrast a sovereign requirement. Since romaine is mostly chopped adult and bagged, a singular infested collection from one plantation that skips contrast could make a lot of people sick, he said.

Teressa Lopez of a Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement also pronounced sovereign law can safeguard larger compliance, even yet a attention agreement has stricter measures.

Despite attention measures implemented after a spinach conflict some-more than a decade ago, health officials remarkable this month there have been 28 E. coli outbreaks related to shaggy greens given 2009.

The furnish attention says a disaster to forestall a Yuma conflict could also simulate a stipulations of contrast H2O for general E. coli.

Elizabeth Bihn, a food scholarship consultant during Cornell University, pronounced a tests demeanour for a volume of fecal matter in water. The problem is, “some feces has pathogens in it, some feces doesn’t,” pronounced Bihn, who is partial of a sovereign module assisting farmers approve with a new furnish regulations.

Testing for specific E. coli strains that are damaging is some-more difficult, and it doesn’t order out a probability of other damaging bacteria, Bihn said.


Whole-genome sequencing is creation it easier to detect outbreaks, that is pressuring a furnish industry.

The FDA warned opposite all romaine final week since it pronounced it was means to brand it as a expected source early enough. The group narrowed a warning to romaine from California’s Central Coast after a furnish attention concluded to tag romaine with collect dates and regions, so people know what’s OK to eat.

The labeling is voluntary, and a attention pronounced it will weigh either to extend it to other shaggy greens. Gottlieb pronounced improving traceability would concede targeted health alerts that don’t harm a whole industry. The FDA recently hired a former Walmart executive who used blockchain record to urge traceability in a retailer’s supply chain.

Stephen Basore, executive of food reserve during a Florida romaine grower, pronounced he expects some-more regulations and self-imposed attention guidelines.

“Anytime there is an issue, a evident response is observant the protocols aren’t enough,” he said.

(AP contributor Josh Replogle contributed from Florida.)