E.coli Outbreak on Romaine Lettuce
Official Statement from Dr. Shawki Ibrahim, Ph.D. Environmental Health Sciences and Mareya Ibrahim,
Food Safety Expert, in response to Recent E.coli Outbreak with Cut Romaine Lettuce
On Friday, April 13th, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed the cause of a multi-state E.coli O157-H7 related to chopped Romaine lettuce, affecting 35 people in 11 states, hospitalizing 22 and causing kidney failure in 3 victims. This outbreak was the result of cases of eating the lettuce from March 22nd – March 31st, 2018, yet the cause of the outbreak was not confirmed until over 3 weeks after the first illness was reported. No recall was issued on the lettuce.
The latest update from CDC released on May 15th has confirmed 172 victims (up from 149 last week) in 32 states, and of them, 75 have been hospitalized – making this the largest multi-state E.coli outbreak in 12 years and has reached historic levels.
“This is a higher hospitalization rate than usual for E. coli O157:H7 infections, which is normally around 30%. Health officials are working to determine why this strain is causing a higher percentage of hospitalizations,” the CDC said.
This is the second E.coli O157-H7 outbreak linked to leafy greens – although the specific type of greens was not confirmed – which ended January 25th, 2018, leaving 25 people ill in 15 states, 9 hospitalizations and 1 associated death. (https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2017/o157h7-12-17/index.html)
The greatest concern is….
By the time the news about the outbreak had come out, the damage to human lives had already been done. Foodborne illness-related outbreaks have become a common headline, and we cannot accept this as the status quo. We must change our approach to how we think about how we process our produce, as the most recent case was with cut lettuce, which is supposed to be pre-washed.
Like so many foodborne illness outbreaks, contamination can be avoided with proper food handling and cleaning.
According to Dr. Ibrahim:
- Most of the ‘pre-washed’ produce uses chlorine as a processing aid, which is only effective to a log 1-2 bacteria reduction – only about 90%, which he believes is not sufficient. Based on data from govand journals such as the Journal of Science and Sustainable Development, it is clear that water and even chlorinated water show much lower than a 1% reduction of bacteria. This has been corroborated by our own third party studies with Earthbound Farms, the Institute for Food Safety, and Health and Micro Quality labs.
- Rinsing leafy greens with water alone, which is the recommendation for consumers from the FDA and CDC, is not enough to remove pathogenic biofilms from harmful E.coli, salmonella and listeria, the main pathogens that cause foodborne illness
- There is no ‘kill’ step in cooking lettuce; therefore it is critical that the consumer take the sufficient precautions to thoroughly clean their produce – whether pre-cut or whole – with a product that is effective in removing pathogenic biofilms that adhere to the produce’s surface
Dr. Shawki Ibrahim, Ph.D. Environmental Health Sciences and Mareya Ibrahim are both greatly concerned by the information being given by thought leaders in the produce and food safety world regarding the improper cleaning and handling of produce. Dr. Ibrahim is an expert in the field of environmental toxins and Ms. Ibrahim is a trusted advisor for major local chain grocery stores, military and school districts on removing harmful contaminants and processing produce effectively to achieve.
We don’t wash our hands with water alone. We don’t wash our clothes with water alone. Why would the tap water that we don’t even drink most of the time be a sufficient cleanser on its own? There is clearly a concern regarding produce safety but as a company, we have the responsibility of helping to educate consumers and food handlers and the information available to the general public is extremely conflicted.
It’s time for consumers to take matters in their own hands and we have the solution for them to do so in a cost effective and easy way with a lab proven, patented product like Eat Cleaner Fruit + Vegetable Wash, with products designed for the home chef, restaurants, juice bars and produce processors. Whether a consumer is eating at home or eating out, it is imperative that they understand the importance of how their produce is washed in order to mitigate their risk of the potentially fatal complications created by food borne illness.