Romaine Industry needs to put Consumers First

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Reprinted with permission from Bill Marler, Marler Clark.

CDC and FDA announce more illnesses in another E. coli Outbreak tied to leafy greens.

(Seattle) “With more illnesses, now with at least six with acute kidney failure, it is past time for the leafy green industry to put the health, safety and lives of consumers first,” said Marler Clark managing partner, Bill Marler. “Since the early 2000’s the industry has pushed prepackaged leafy greens on consumers without adequately addressing the root causes of many of these outbreaks – environmental contamination from cattle,” added Marler.

According to Marler, “It is past time for all stakeholders: growers, processors and retailers of leafy greens to work with the cattle and dairy industries, along with local, state and federal health agencies to come to a solution to this ongoing and systemic environmental problem. We cannot allow E. coli illnesses and deaths to continue to be ‘a cost of doing business.’”

According to the CDC, since the previous update on November 22, an additional 27 ill people have been reported. As of November 25, 2019, a total of 67 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from 19 states: Arizona (3), California (4), Colorado (1), Idaho (3), Illinois (1), Maryland (4), Michigan (1), Minnesota (3), Montana (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (2), Ohio (12), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (3), Texas (2), Virginia (2), Washington (1) and Wisconsin (21).

Illnesses started on dates ranging from September 24, 2019, to November 14, 2019. Ill people range in age from 3 to 89 years, with a median age of 25. Sixty-seven percent of ill people are female. Of 50 ill people with information available, 39 hospitalizations have been reported, including six people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported. One case has been reported in Canada

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicate that romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California, growing region is the likely source of this outbreak. This includes Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Benito, and Monterey counties in California.

FDA and states continue to trace the source of the romaine lettuce eaten by ill people. Preliminary information indicates that some of the ill people ate lettuce grown in Salinas, California. No common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified.

CDC continues to advise that consumers not eat, and retailers not sell any romaine lettuce grown in Salinas, California. The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and if additional products are linked to illness.

The Maryland Department of Health identified E. coli O157:H7 in an unopened package of Ready Pac Bistro® Chicken Caesar Salad collected from an ill person’s home in Maryland. Analysis of this salad, through Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS), has linked strain E. coli O157:H7 to three Maryland cases and the multi-state outbreak.

On Nov. 21, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a recall by Missa Bay, LLC, a Swedesboro, N.J. establishment, of approximately 75,233 pounds of salad products that contain meat or poultry because the lettuce ingredient may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7. Products in this recall were produced with the same lot of lettuce that was used to produce the packaged salad that the Maryland Department of Health found to contain E. coli 0157:H7. The products subject to the recall can be found in a spreadsheet on the FSIS website. FSIS will likely update the poundage as more information becomes available. FSIS has posted product labels on its website.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 18502B” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to distribution locations in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.

This outbreak is caused by the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 that caused outbreaks linked to leafy greens in 2017 and to romaine lettuce in 2018.

Here is just a sample of E. coli outbreaks based on information gathered by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Kansas State University, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is very likely that there are other outbreaks that the CDC and FDA did not make public.

Date Vehicle Etiology Confirmed Cases States & Provinces

July 1995 Lettuce (leafy green; red; romaine) E. coli O157:H7 74 1:MT

Sept.1995 Lettuce (romaine) E. coli O157:H7 20 1:ID

Sept.1995 Lettuce (iceberg) E. coli O157:H7 30 1:ME

Oct. 1995 Lettuce (iceberg; unconfirmed) E. coli O157:H7 11 1:OH

May-June 1996 Lettuce (mesclun; red leaf) E. coli O157:H7 61 3:CT, IL, NY

May 1998 Salad E. coli O157:H7 2 1:CA

Feb.-Mar.1999 Lettuce (iceberg) E. coli O157:H7 72 1:NE

Oct. 1999 Salad E. coli O157:H7 92 3:OR, PA, OH

Oct. 2000 Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 6 1:IN

Nov. 2001 Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 20 1:TX

Date Vehicle Etiology Confirmed Cases States & Provinces

July-Aug.2002 Lettuce (romaine) E. coli O157:H7 29 2:WA, ID

Nov. 2002 Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 13 1:Il

Dec. 2002 Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 3 1:MN

Oct. 2003-May 2004 Lettuce (mixed salad) E. coli O157:H7 57 1:CA

Apr. 2004 Spinach E. coli O157:H7 16 1:CA

Nov. 2004 Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 6 1:NJ

Sept.2005 Lettuce (romaine) E. coli O157:H7 32 3:MN, WI, OR

Sept.2006 Spinach (baby) E. coli O157:H7 and other serotypes 205 Multistate and Canada

Nov./Dec.2006 Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 71 4:NY, NJ, PA, DE

Nov./Dec.2006 Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 81 3:IA, MN, WI

July 2007 Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 26 1:AL

Date Vehicle Etiology Confirmed Cases States & Provinces

May 2008 Romaine E. coli O157:H7 9 1:WA

Oct. 2008 Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 59 Multistate and Canada

Nov. 2008 Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 130 Canada

Sept.2009 Lettuce: Romaine or Iceberg E. coli O157:H7 29 Multistate

Sept.2009 Lettuce E. coli O157:H7 10 Multistate

April 2010 Romaine E. coli O145 33 5:MI, NY, OH, PA, TN

Oct. 2011 Romaine E. coli O157:H7 60 Multistate

April 2012 Romaine E. coli O157:H7 28 1:CA Canada

June 2012 Romaine E. coli O157:H7 52 Multistate

Sept.2012 Romaine E. coli O157:H7 9 1:PA

Oct. 2012 Spinach and Spring Mix Blend E. coli O157:H7 33 Multistate

Apr. 2013 Leafy Greens E. coli O157:H7 14 Multistate

Date Vehicle Etiology Confirmed Cases States & Provinces

Aug. 2013 Leafy Greens E. coli O157:H7 15 1:PA

Oct. 2013 Ready-To-Eat Salads E. coli O157:H7 33 Multistate

Apr. 2014 Romaine E. coli O126 4 1:MN

Apr. 2015 Leafy Greens E. coli O145 7 3:MD, SC, VA

June 2016 Mesclun Mix E. coli O157:H7 11 3:IL, MI, WI

Nov. 2017 Leafy Greens E. coli O157:H7 67 Multistate and Canada

Mar. 2018 Romaine E. coli O157:H7 219 Multistate and Canada

Nov. 2018 Romaine E. coli O157:H7 91 Multistate and Canada

Sept.2019 Romaine E. coli O157:H7 23 Multistate

Nov. 2019 Romaine E. coli O157:H7 68 Multistate and Canada

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other food borne illness infections and have recovered over $700 million for clients in the last 25 years. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on food borne illness litigation.

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