The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised consumers not to eat any type of romaine lettuce due to another E. coli outbreak.
Along the same lines, federal health agencies have instructed retailers not to sell romaine and restaurants not to serve it, and the United Fresh Produce Association stated in a member alert that the CDC and the FDA have requested the voluntary withdrawal of romaine before it enters commerce.
Thirty-two people in the U.S. have fallen ill, and so have 18 people in Canada, according to the outbreak alert.
The illnesses have been connected to romaine based on epidemiological evidence, with 11 of 14 people interviewed by the CDC saying that they ate romaine before becoming sick.
Cases have been reported in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin. The states with the highest numbers of cases are California (10) and Michigan (7).
According to the CDC, this outbreak is genetically linked to a 2017 outbreak that the U.S. linked to leafy greens and that Canada attributed to romaine specifically.
However, this outbreak is not related to the spate of E. coli infections earlier this year that were also linked to romaine.
Sales of romaine were still recovering after the outbreak earlier this year, but of course the CDC’s new advisory will bring them to a complete halt.
The United Fresh Produce Association stated in its member alert that it is working with health agencies to identify the source of the outbreak.
“The best way to limit the impact of this outbreak is to solve it quickly,” United Fresh said. “We are working aggressively with stakeholders to try to narrow the source of the outbreak so that FDA can withdraw this comprehensive advisory. If industry members receive a request from a regulator for traceback information, please respond as quickly as possible. We are working cooperatively with the CDC, FDA and state agencies to ensure public safety and bring romaine lettuce back on the market as soon as possible.”
The news comes on the heels of a major effort by the U.S. leafy greens industry to examine best practices and tighten up already strict protocols for harvesting, packing, processing and shipping. More than 130 people participated in the Leafy Greens Food Safety Task Force after the outbreak earlier this year that sickened more than 200 people.
The group formed, conducted its work and issued recommendations in the span of a few months in hopes that those could be implemented before the start of the Arizona season.