The recent E.coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce in the U.S. is spreading, and there still aren’t many answers, reports Forbes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are reporting that 121 people across 25 states have become sick after eating romaine lettuce that was grown in the Yuma, Arizona, area. Among the sickened people, at least 46 have been hospitalized, and ten of those have developed kidney failure. At least one person who became ill in California has now died.
Despite the severity of the outbreak, authorities are struggling to determine when and how the lettuce was tainted. This is because it appears the contamination did not happen where the lettuce as grown but at another point in the packing and distribution chain. After the lettuce is harvested, it goes into boxes, is shipped to one or several facilities, stored, washed, processed and packaged in bags that may include salad mixes and plain romaine. With all of these touch points, the FDA is having a hard time determining what is behind the contamination.
At this point, the CDC is telling consumers that they should avoid all forms of romaine at home and at eateries if it’s from the Yuma region or could be possibly be from that area because without being able to pinpoint where the contamination occurred, it’s impossible to tell which brands are affected. This warning also extends to salad mixes, as many eateries use blends that may have romaine in them. Restaurants and retail outlets are also being advised to investigate the source of their lettuce and to avoid serving or selling any romaine from a Yuma-area farm.
The FDA has not issued an official recall yet because the actual brands that could be dangerous are unknown. Many of the ill people reported eating lettuce in restaurants before they became sick, and romaine was found to be the common ingredient in those salads and dishes across the various eateries where the victims ate.
Food safety and the future
There have been several large recalls of fresh foods over the last decade, and romaine and leafy lettuces are often among them. Many food safety experts are pointing to solutions such as blockchain technologies to help identify contamination sources faster. IBM, for example is working on a solution that will hold a wealth of information about a food’s origin and transit, including batch numbers, details about the farm it came from, expiration dates, factory information, shipping details and storage temperatures. This data is then digitally connected to the food items, and additional information is added at each step of the process. With this sort of record, authorities will be able to identify potential contamination and problems far more quickly than they can today.
Food recalls are an unfortunate staple of modern life. If you or someone you love has been harmed by tainted food or another unsafe product, speak to a product liability attorney, like a Denver personal injury lawyer, about it today.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Offices of Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into e coli cases.