Federal health officials said on Monday (Nov 26) that only romaine lettuce from certain parts of California is unsafe to eat and romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labelled to give consumers information about when and where it was harvested.
Health officials believe they've located the source of an E.coli outbreak in lettuce that made people sick across several states.
When the reported illnesses started, most the romaine sold in the USA was being grown in central California.
Romaine harvesting recently began shifting from California's Central Coast to winter growing areas, primarily Arizona, Florida, Mexico and California's Imperial Valley.
"Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the FDA continued to investigate the outbreak", according to a statement from FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
"If consumers, retailers, and food service facilities are unable to identify that romaine lettuce products are not affected - which means determining that the products were grown outside the California regions that appear to be implicated in the current outbreak investigation -we urge that these products not be purchased, or if purchased, be discarded or returned to the place of purchase", he said. Romaine from these sources is safe to eat, the FDA said.
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In Canada, based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to romaine lettuce has been identified as a source of the outbreak, but the cause of contamination has not been identified. Canada linked its cases to romaine lettuce specifically, but U.S. investigators said only that the origin was in leafy greens.
"The FDA believes it was critically important to have a clean break in the romaine supply available to consumers in the U.S.in order to purge the market of potentially contaminated romaine lettuce related to the current outbreak", Gottlieb said. 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 past year, is considered. The Canadian agency reported 22 confirmed cases in three provinces: Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. Children under 5, adults older than 65 and people with weakened immune systems, such as people with chronic diseases, are more likely to develop severe illness, but even healthy children and adults can become seriously ill.
In the meantime, people shouldn't eat any romaine lettuce that doesn't have the label information.
More: Is it safe to eat romaine lettuce yet? This includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
But strains that produceShiga toxin cause illnesses. While unpleasant and may lead to hospitalization, most people recover.