It's OK to eat some romaine, look for labels

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It's OK to eat some romaine, look for labels

Major distributors in the leafy greens industry - including Fresh Express, Dole, and Taylor Farms - have agreed to voluntarily label the region in which their romaine lettuce was grown as well as the date after which it was harvested.

The FDA, along with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned USA residents last week not to consume the lettuce from anywhere because of an E. coli outbreak.

It's OK to eat romaine lettuce again, federal health officials said Monday - as long as you're sure it wasn't grown on California's north and central coast.

Romaine harvesting recently began shifting from California's Central Coast to winter growing areas, primarily Arizona, Florida, Mexico and California's Imperial Valley.

"Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be related to the current outbreak", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.

The agency also commended stores and restaurants nationwide for pulling romaine until investigators could figure out the source.

At least 22 people in Ontario Quebec and New Brunswick have been sickened in the outbreak
At least 22 people in Ontario Quebec and New Brunswick have been sickened in the outbreak

In the wake of the current outbreak, the leafy greens industry is planning to establish another task force to come up with better ways to prevent problems in romaine lettuce and other greens, an effort that could include a discussion about long-term origin and date labeling standards for other leafy greens, Gottlieb told POLITICO.

The FDA is continuing tracebacks of romaine lettuce from locations where impacted consumers purchased or consumed romaine lettuce before they became ill in order to identify specific locations that are the likely source of the outbreak and to determine the factors that resulted in contamination.

Health officials warned people last week not to eat any romaine because they hadn't yet identified a source of contamination in the outbreak. There are now 22 confirmed cases in Canada across three provinces: Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

Even though romaine from the Yuma, Ariz., region is not implicated in the current outbreak, it was blamed for an E. coli outbreak this spring that sickened more than 200 people and killed five. Most E. coli strains are harmless to humans, but some varieties cause illness. Currently, the FDA investigation does not implicate lettuce from any of these areas. Only one of the hospitalized patients developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening disease affecting the kidneys.

People of all ages are at risk of becoming infected with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, according to the FDA. While unpleasant and may lead to hospitalization, most people recover.

If you would like to find out more information, you can contact your nearest state and district health office accessible via the Health Ministry's portal here, or you could get in touch with the Malaysian Food and Safety Quality Division via Facebook here.

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