Monterey County Farm Bureau

Food Safety

STATEMENT ON ROMAINE LETTUCE RECALL

From U.S. Food & Drug Adminstration - Updated 11/29/2018

FDA Investigating Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 Infections Likely Linked to Romaine Lettuce Grown in California

The FDA, along with CDC, state and local agencies, is investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses likely linked to romaine lettuce grown in California this fall. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency are also coordinating with U.S. agencies as they investigate a similar outbreak in Canada.

The FDA has been conducting a traceback investigation, reviewing shipping records and invoices to trace the supply of romaine from the place where ill people were exposed to the place where that romaine was grown.

Preliminary traceback information indicates that ill people in several areas across the country were exposed to romaine lettuce harvested in California. Specifically, current evidence indicates this romaine was harvested in the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California.

[New Information as of November 28, 2018]

The specific California counties FDA is including in this region are:

  • Monterey
  • San Benito
  • San Luis Obispo
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Cruz
  • Ventura

Additional counties may be added as the FDA traceback develops.

Romaine harvested from locations outside of the California regions identified by the traceback investigation does not appear to be related to the current outbreak.

There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine lettuce that is certain to have been harvested from areas outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. For example, romaine lettuce harvested from areas that include, but are not limited to the desert growing region near Yuma, the California desert growing region near Imperial County and Riverside County, the state of Florida, and Mexico, does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Additionally, there is no evidence hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine is related to the current outbreak.

During this new stage of the investigation, it is vital that consumers and retailers have an easy way to identify romaine lettuce by both harvest date and harvest location. Labeling with this information on each bag of romaine or signage in stores where labels are not an option would easily differentiate for consumers romaine from unaffected growing regions.

Recommendation:

Based on discussions with producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date or labeled as being hydroponically- or greenhouse-grown. If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it.

If romaine lettuce does have this labeling information, we advise avoiding any product from the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. Romaine lettuce from outside those regions need not be avoided.

Romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine harvested from these sources.

More information will be posted here as made available.



Enhanced Food Safety Practices

In collaboration with government and university specialists, organizations representing fresh-produce farmers and handlers have written enhanced food safety practices for the growing of leafy greens. Organizations cooperating in the project include California Farm Bureau Federation, Western Growers Association, Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association.

The practices affect production of iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, baby leaf lettuce (i.e., immature lettuce or leafy greens), escarole, endive, spring mix, spinach, cabbage, kale, arugula and chard. The practices have been accepted by the Leafy Greens Handler Marketing Agreement Advisory Board and may be viewed on the board Web site. The board will oversee inspections, conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, that verify compliance with the food safety practices.

Farm Bureau continues to work towards implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, a federal update to food safety regulations.  Many of the requirements of FSMA are similar to the LGMA guidelines.

LGMA accepted Food Safety Practices

Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Production and Harvest of Lettuce and Leafy Greens. Accepted by the LGMA Advisory Board, these are the food safety practices that LGMA members are required to implement in order to comply with the program.

Safe Fruits & Veggies

A resource for science-based information about the safety of organic and conventional produce; use facts, not fear, to make healthy food choices.  Try the pesticide resedue calculator to see the true exposure risks of produce in our food supply.

Good Agriculture Practices (GAP)

Produce Safety Project

Standards for Irrigation and Foliar Contact Water

Analysis of the Standards for Irrigation and Foliar Contact Water provided by Trevor V. Suslow, Ph.D. from University of California, Davis

Co-Managing for Food Safety and Ecological Heath in California's Central Coast Region

Analysis of Food Safety and Ecological Heath from Dr. Jeffrey Langholtz and Dr. Karen Lowell

Scared Fat: Are consumers being scared away from healthy foods?

Alliance for Food & Farming study on the impacts of negative messages on the conumption of fresh fruits and vegetables


Five Facts about Produce

In the nutrition world, information about healthy eating can be confusing, complicated or even conflicting.  When it comes to produce, it should be simple:  Eat more organic and conventional fruits and veggies every day for better health and a longer life.  But here are some additional produce facts, which may be of interest to consumers:

  • We Don’t Eat Nearly Enough: Only one in 10 Americans eat enough produce each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Slight Increases Can Prevent Diseases: If half of Americans increased their consumption of fruits and veggies by a single serving each day, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented annually.
  • Washing Removes Residues: Washing organic and conventional produce under running tap water often removes or eliminates any minute residues that may be present, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
  • People Who Eat More Are Happier: Peer reviewed studies show mental well-being rose in accordance with the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed.
  • Continually Tested for Safety: Over 99% of the produce sampled by USDA had pesticide residue levels below tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency.  And 50% of foods sampled by the FDA had no detectable residues at all.

 

But there’s more! Fruits and veggies comprise the only food group that health experts everywhere agree we should all eat more of every day for better health and a longer life.  And, since farmers’ own families are their first consumers, food safety is always their priority.

Healthy and Safe – the most important facts of all to remember.  Read more about food safety at www.SafeFruitsandVeggies.com

Provided by: Alliance for Food & Farming