The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state and local agencies, is investigating a multistate outbreak of E coli O157:H7 illnesses likely linked to romaine lettuce grown in California this autumn. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency are also coordinating with US agencies as they investigate a similar outbreak in Canada.
The FDA has been conducting a traceback investigation, reviewing shipping records and invoices to trace the supply of romaine from the place where ill people were exposed to the place where that romaine was distributed/processed and ultimately grown.
Preliminary traceback information indicates that ill people in several areas across the nation were exposed to romaine lettuce harvested in California. Specifically, current evidence indicates this romaine was harvested in the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California.
The specific California counties FDA is including in this region are Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura.
Analysis of information available through November 30 has not narrowed the potential sources of contaminated romaine lettuce to a specific farm, processor, shipper or distribution center. Given the widespread distribution of farms, processors, shippers, and distribution centers identified by our traceback, the FDA continues to recommend that consumers not eat romaine lettuce grown in the identified counties until the investigation identifies a source or sources to explain the outbreak. Additional counties may be added or removed as the FDA romaine investigation progresses. Updates will be provided as new information becomes available.
Romaine harvested from locations outside of the California regions identified by the traceback investigation does not appear to be related to the current outbreak.
There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine lettuce that is certain to have been harvested from areas outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California.
During this new stage of the investigation, it is vital that consumers and retailers have an easy way to identify romaine lettuce by both harvest date and harvest location. Labeling with this information on each bag of romaine or signage in stores where labels are not an option would easily differentiate for consumers romaine from unaffected growing regions.
Based on discussions with producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date or labeled as being hydroponically or greenhouse-grown. If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it.
If romaine lettuce does have this labeling information, we advise avoiding any product from the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. Romaine lettuce from outside those regions need not be avoided.
Romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be related to the current outbreak.
Access www.fda.gov for more information.