November 25, 2019

PMA issues update on latest E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce

The Produce Marketing Association has issued the following statement to its members regarding the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak investigation. The PMA staff participated in a call with the FDA and CDC.

The FDA and CDC have each released updated information regarding the current investigation into the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce. Since the last update on Nov. 20, 2019, the FDA and CDC have provided additional guidance to consumers and industry with the highlights listed below.

Outbreak Details

  • Illnesses confirmed
  • 16 states reporting illness
  • 62% of cases resulted in hospitalization
  • Six cases have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • No deaths have been reported

Summary of updated information

  • The FDA and CDC are advising consumers not to purchase or consume any romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley area. This includes products from Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey and Santa Clara counties in California.
  • All industry sectors are asked to withdraw products grown in this region from coolers, distribution channels, and all consumer points of consumption or purchasing. Processors, retailers, and foodservice operators are advised to remove the products, send them back, or throw them away.
  • The FDA and CDC have indicated that romaine lettuce from areas outside of the above listed Salinas Valley regional counties are not implicated in this outbreak at this time.
  • PMA is advising its members to watch for updates closely as this list of counties may change as new cases and potential sources are communicated.
  • The investigation has indicated that the outbreak is not limited to any one form of romaine lettuce and may include chopped, processed, and hearts of romaine.
  • Whole Genome Sequencing has confirmed that all 40 reported cases are linked to the strain identified in a positive, unopened packaged-product sample found from an illness reported in Maryland. Additionally, all are linked to the E. coli O157:H7 strain identified in November 2017 and November 2018 romaine outbreaks.

The investigation is ongoing, and the FDA has shared their investigative teams will be on the ground in Salinas Valley in the coming days. PMA will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available