US authorities are advising consumers to avoid all romaine lettuce until the source of the current outbreak is identified © 123RF
US authorities are advising consumers to avoid all romaine lettuce until the source of the current outbreak is identified © 123RF

E.coli warning for North American romaine lettuce

21 November 2018

Restaurants and retailers in the US and Canada have been advised not to sell or serve romaine lettuce after the produce was linked to a strain of E.coli. 

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued advice to restaurants, retailers and consumers while it investigates the source of the current outbreak alongside the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and local agencies.

There have been at least 32 reported illnesses across 11 states in the US, with 13 cases requiring hospitalisation and a further 18 reported cases in Canada, ranging between 8-31 October.

No one supplier has been linked to the outbreak and instead the CDC is advising consumers to avoid all romaine lettuce including whole heads, pre cut lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine. 

“Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick,” it said.

Commissioner for the FDA Scott Gottlieb said that while the agency did not have enough information to request suppliers issue a recall, he reiterated that supermarkets and restaurants should withdraw romaine products until the contamination can be identified. 

It is not believe that the current E.coli outbreak is related to the other strains reported in the US and Canada within the last year, one of which spanned 36 US states, resulting in five deaths and 210 people infected. 

This latest strain comes as US supermarket chain Walmart asked all its suppliers of leafy greens to sign up to its blockchain solution by September 2019, ensuring end-to-end traceability of produce and allowing the retailer to react quickly should an outbreak occur. 

Frank Yiannas, VP of food safety at Walmart said: “In the future, using the technology we’re requiring, a customer could potentially scan a bag of salad and know with certainty where it came from.”

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