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FDA’s latest on romaine lettuce outbreak implicates California


Last week, right before Thanksgiving, the FDA, CDC, and partners urged consumers to avoid romaine lettuce completely. So much for your grandma’s favorite salad, hope the extra cookie covered the disappointment. The outbreak announcement went to drastic measures since the E. coli could not be pinpointed to a specific location. During the time of the outbreak announcement, this particular strand of E.Coli had hospitalized 13 of the 32 sickened people in 11 states. 

As of Nov. 23, the FDA believes they have been able to close in on the location of the outbreak. Scott Gottlieb, the 23rd Commissioner of the FDA, took to Twitter to reveal an update on the romaine lettuce outbreak. “The romaine implicated in the current outbreak is likely from California based on growing and harvesting patterns. The goal now is to withdraw the product that’s at risk of being contaminated from the market, and then re-stock the market.”

Gottlieb continued in a followup tweet: “New romaine from different growing regions, including Florida and Arizona, will soon be harvested. We’re working with growers and distributors on labeling produce for location and harvest date and possibly other ways of informing consumers that the product is “post-purge”. We want to help unaffected growers get back into production and enable stores and consumers to re-stock. One goal we’re seeking is to make this type of labeling the new standard rather than a short-term fix; as a way to improve identification and traceability in the system.” 

A labeling movement has been initiated between major companies and the FDA in order to increase transparency for consumers. The romaine labeling effort is expected to be well received from consumes and advocates to help  clarify in a more timely manner where the lettuce came from and to reduce confusion in the future. 

The outbreak is hurting farmers, big and small, in many areas. There is a push to allow grocery stores to accept products from local growers that are not connected to California at all to get romaine back on the shelf. 

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