The FDA, CDC, and state health authorities are investigating an outbreak of illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 in the United States. Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicates that romaine lettuce from the California Salinas Valley region is a likely source of this outbreak. Consumers should not eat romaine lettuce harvested from that region. Additionally, consumers should not eat products identified in the recall announced by the USDA on November 21, 2019.
The CDC has said that 40 people in 16 states have been sickened, 28 of them seriously enough to require hospitalization.
The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 18502B” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to distribution locations in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. Missa Bay LLC, a Swedesboro, New Jersey, establishment, has recalled more than 75,000 pounds of salad products related to this outbreak.
As part of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation, the Maryland Department of Health collected an unopened package of Ready Pac Bistro Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics Caesar Salad with FSIS EST number 18502B on the label. The state collected and tested individual ingredients in the salad and the lettuce tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. All products from the same lot of lettuce are included in the recall.
“No one is more frustrated than the producers of leafy greens that outbreaks continue to be associated with our products,” said Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, a food safety program created in 2007 to prevent foodborne illnesses caused by lettuce and leafy greens.
“We are devastated as a leafy greens community when this happens,” said Dan Sutton, a farmer from Oceano, California. “Our thoughts go to those affected by this outbreak. But that’s why we want to continue to work with governmental agencies to learn why this is happening so that we can improve.”
According to the FDA and CDC, consumers are advised not to eat any of the specific products included in recent salad mix recalls and to avoid romaine lettuce from Salinas. At this time, romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Salinas region has not been implicated in this outbreak investigation.
“As farmers, we never want outbreaks to happen,” stressed Sutton, who serves as the chairman of the LGMA. “We will continue to do everything we possibly can to improve our required practices, to improve the way we farm leafy greens and to make sure we can improve the safety of these products we are putting out to our consumers.”