Yesterday evening, the CDC and the FDA released an update regarding the Escherichia coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce: the lettuce in question comes from the Central Coastal growing regions in northern and central California. Hydroponically or greenhouse-grown romaine has not been linked to the outbreak. No common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has been identified.
The investigation has been expanded to include 43 reported cases from 12 states, with 16 hospitalizations. The death count remains at zero.
The CDC advises that customers should avoid eating lettuce, if they don’t know where it was grown. Lettuce should be thrown out if grown in the Central Coastal growing regions, or if unknown, including whole heads, hearts, bags and boxes of precut lettuce, and salad mixes. Drawers or shelves where lettuce was stored should be fully sanitized with warm, soapy water, with the option of following up with bleach—although they warn that cold glass shelves shouldn’t be immediately run under hot water, as they could crack, and should be allowed to come to room temperature first.
The FDA is working with lettuce producers to update product labeling and dating. Currently, it is a short-term solution, meant to reassure customers that the lettuce they are eating is post-purge and from a different area of the United States. The romaine lettuce industry has, however, committed to a long-term labeling solution, so that future outbreaks can be contained and traced selectively and quickly.
The FDA said in their statement that “It was critically important to have a “clean break” in the romaine supply in order to purge the market of potentially contaminated romaine lettuce.”
Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, agreed, saying on Twitter that “We are pleased that many of our industry stakeholders voluntarily withdrew potentially contaminated romaine and agreed to voluntarily label future romaine shipments with harvest locations.”
“We will continue to provide updates on our investigation and changes to our advice on romaine lettuce as more information becomes available,” Gottlieb said.