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Romaine Lettuce Testing Program in Development after E-Coli Outbreak

The Food and Drug Administration’s investigation into a deadly E-Coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce raised in Yuma, Arizona, found no specific reason for the outbreak. However, the FDA did conclude that it’s likely from contaminated water from an irrigation canal that passes near a cattle operation.

The FDA issued documentation on the investigation, as well as notified the leafy greens industry that it will start a romaine lettuce survey program very soon. The Packer Dot Com says the agency will analyze samples from all major growing areas, and if a pathogen is found, the FDA will follow the supply chain back to the source and see if unsanitary conditions were the cause. A letter to stakeholders also says the agency will explore all regulatory options and consider appropriate enforcement actions against firms and farms that produce and pack fresh lettuce and other leafy greens under less-than-sanitary conditions.

The letter was addressed to stakeholders and agriculture departments based in California and Arizona, the two states that produce the largest amount of leafy greens in the country. The letter was also copied to the FDA website for other industry stakeholders as well. One of the things that made the investigation more difficult was that multiple records were either on paper or handwritten. FDA says one of the new requirements will be updated methods of record keeping, in order to make investigations like this easier to complete.

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