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Recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce “appears to be over”

Posted: 4 November 2019 | | No comments yet

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that the recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, involving 23 illnesses, that was likely associated with romaine lettuce, “appears to be over”.

E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce “appears to be over”

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that the recent 2019 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, involving 23 illnesses across 12 US states, that was likely linked to romaine lettuce, “appears to be over”.

The FDA and the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) did not identify actionable information for consumers during this investigation. Additionally, when romaine lettuce was identified as the likely source of the outbreak, the available data at the time indicated that the outbreak was not ongoing and romaine lettuce eaten by sick people was past its shelf life and no longer available for sale.

The FDA has said it is communicating details about the outbreak at this time to help ensure full awareness by the public and to highlight the ongoing importance of industry actions to help ensure the safety of leafy greens. Federal health officials do not believe there is a current or ongoing risk to public health.

“We do not believe there is a current or ongoing risk to the public and we are not recommending the public avoid consuming romaine lettuce,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, Frank Yiannas. “However, our investigation, along with previous outbreaks linked to romaine, reinforces the recommendations that we have made to the leafy green industry: producers must continue to review their practices and improve traceability to enhance food safety. We remain committed to improving the safety of leafy greens and know that all levels of government and the supply chain from farm to retail must continue to work together to keep consumers safe.”

CDC notified the FDA of this illness cluster in mid-September 2019 and the agency initiated a traceback investigation. The FDA, CDC, along with state and local partners, investigated the illnesses associated with the outbreak. A total of 23 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 were reported from 12 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. 11 people were hospitalised and no deaths were reported. Illnesses started on dates ranging from 12 July 2019 to 8 September 2019. No illnesses were reported after CDC began investigating the outbreak on 17 September 2019.

Investigators were sent to visit farms located in California’s central coast region which were identified through the traceback investigation. They collected and tested many environmental samples, and the outbreak strain was not identified. While romaine lettuce is the likely cause of the outbreak, the investigation did not identify a common source or point where contamination occurred.

Since the outbreak strain was not detected in samples collected from farms during the traceback investigation, and there have been no new cases since 8 September 2019, the outbreak is said to “appears to be over”.

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