United States health officials say it's OK to eat some romaine lettuce again.
Early this month, FDA said it couldn't definitively identify the source of the pathogens that contaminated the romaine in that outbreak after an intensive, monthslong investigation - though investigators continue to maintain that canal water was likely the mode of contamination. The agency said Monday the romaine linked to the outbreak appears to be from the California's Central Coast region.
Romaine harvesting recently began shifting from California's Central Coast to winter growing areas, primarily Arizona, Florida, Mexico and California's Imperial Valley.
The produce industry agreed to start putting harvest dates and regions on labels. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb took to Twitter over the Thanksgiving holiday to explain why such a blanket warning was issued.
"They are not ordering romaine lettuce and will not serve romaine lettuce or any blends that contain romaine until they know more", Riley said.
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Officials believe the contamination specifically affects the "end of season" lettuce harvested from these farms, which span from central to northern California.
An additional 22 people in Canada are also ill, so the FDA is coordinating its investigation with the Canadian health and food safety authorities, the agency said. Residents in impacted provinces are also advised to discard any romaine lettuce in their home, and to properly wash and sanitize any containers or bins that have come in contact with romaine lettuce.
Earlier this year, the situation was almost reversed: Some in the industry started putting stickers on product saying the lettuce was from California to differentiate from the Yuma region, though officials weren't able to pinpoint the problem to Yuma until right at the end of the season.
Officials had told consumers to throw out any romaine ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, citing an E.coli outbreak that sickened dozens in the USA and Canada.
McEntire said the industry is considering multiple theories, including whether there is something about romaine that makes it more susceptible to contamination. The people who have gotten sick recently because of the same outbreak have also been observed to be infected with the similar fingerprint, as far as the recent E. coli strain which infected quite a few people a year ago, is considered. "The CDC has called out romaine - they didn't call out any other kind of lettuce or leafy green", Detwiler says.
A limited recall of romaine in May 2018 led to $70 million less in sales from April to June than in the same period the previous year, according to an industry report. US investigators never specified which salad green might be to blame for those illnesses, which happened around the same time of year as the current outbreak.