David Cifarelli – Editor-In-Chief
Romaine lettuce is starting to return to grocery stores after an E. coli outbreak to hit the leafy lettuce this past month. The York Daily Reporter stated that the produce would begin its reentry this weekend. This comes after recent efforts the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken to potentially avoid similar outbreaks in the future.
November’s romaine lettuce outbreak was the second outbreak to occur this year. The first outbreak took place back in April. Thought to be a result of contaminated water, this outbreak infected 210 people and sent five to the hospital. This time around, the bacteria-infused lettuce has, to date, infected 43 Americans and 22 Canadians.
According to the FDA, 16 were hospitalized in 12 different states. These states include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Although no deaths have been reported, CNN Health proclaims that at least one of the hospitalized people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially life-threatening form of kidney failure resulting from E. coli ingestion.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a Food Safety Alert on their website. The alert includes advice to consumers, restaurants, retailers and clinicians, latest outbreak information, and symptoms of E. coli infection. Symptoms of this infection can include watery or bloody diarrhea, fevers, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting. Typically these ailments begin to surface three of four days after initially consuming the bacteria.
CNN Health reports that most people infected by E. coli do get better within five to seven days. However the strain of E. coli that has been traced to the recent outbreak is supposedly more severe. As of November 23rd, 22 people have become infected with E. coli illness in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick according to Canadians health authorities.
The FDA has also announced that this most recent outbreak of the lettuce came from California’s central coast growing region. The counties within this region include Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura.
People are being advised that if their romaine lettuce came from any location outside this area is probably safe to consume. Any lettuce grown inside greenhouses are also said to be bacteria-free.
To battle this recent outbreak and its impact in both the United States and Canada, the FDA will launch a new labeling campaign for produce products. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has been participating in discussions with leafy green growers and other agricultural industry representative to formulate solutions to avoid and manage future impacts of produce outbreaks.
As reported by Forbes Magazine, the agency announced a more permanent labeling scheme that will hopefully assist Gottlieb in this endeavor on November 26th. The scheme includes placing labels on all produce with the date of harvest and the growing region. The aim is to assist in any market recalls, traceability of products and ensuring customers avoid contaminated lettuce.
The recent romaine outbreak becomes one of 27 food recalls to happen this year. The full list, found on the FDA’s website, includes anything from produce to chees products to pet food. This supposed epidemic appears to really have people wondering what exactly in getting into their food and why this is such a consistent factor.
Even students at Assumption College felt the shockwave of this recent outbreak. Sodexo posted signs in both dining areas on campus that romaine lettuce was available for salad and other foods. With a number of individuals falling to sickness and even being hospitalized, the college wants to protect its students from being susceptible from an outbreak to originate from the west coast.
David Cifarelli, a senior, studies English and Italian. He is the Editor-In-Chief of Le Provocateur.