U.S.: All Romaine must be discarded ‘without exception’, says CDC director

November 23 , 2018

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) today released a statement regarding the latest outbreak of E. coli that has been linked to Romaine lettuce.

The outbreak was announced earlier this week, and as of Nov. 23 it has sickened 32 people across 11 states, hospitalizing 11 of those people.

Robert R. Redfield said that authorities are continuing to investigate, and emphasized the need for consumers to throw out all Romaine lettuce, saying there are “no exceptions”.

Here is the full statement:

“CDC continues to investigate a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157 infections linked to romaine lettuce. We understand this outbreak is of concern to many Americans – especially with so many gathering for meals this Thanksgiving week. CDC’s disease detectives are working with federal regulatory partners to investigate and determine the source of contamination as quickly as possible. We will continue to provide more information as it becomes available. The good news is we were able to detect and identify the outbreak quickly through our disease surveillance system, which can prevent further illness.

“However, until we know more, it’s crucial that Americans continue to follow the guidance that CDC issued. There are no exceptions – all romaine lettuce must be discarded, regardless of brand, type, or if it is in a mixture. We also continue to urge people to follow our tips to help prevent E. coli illness. In addition, we remind clinicians that antibiotics are not recommended for patients in whom E. coli O157 is suspected until diagnostic testing rules out this infection.”

On Friday Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb Tweeted that the entity is working with growers and distributors from growing regions that are about to start harvesting, including Florida and Arizona, 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 idenfitifaction [sic] and traceability in the system,” he said.

This is the second E. coli outbreak linked to Romaine lettuce so far in 2018, following an outbreak that sickened more than 190 people and killed five at the beginning of the year.  

Most illnesses have been registered in California (10) and Michigan (7). Cases have also been reported in Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

FDA and states are working to trace back Romaine lettuce that ill people ate in the current outbreak. No common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has yet been identified. 

On Wednesday, Gottlieb was quoted as saying by NBC News that California was likely the source of the outbreak.




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