GSA Statement on FDA & CDC Announcement: Outbreak Investigation of Illnesses Caused by E. coli O157:H7 and Associated with Salinas Grown Romaine Products

It is unacceptable for any consumer to suffer with this illness. While many have worked hard to make needed food safety improvements, it is starkly obvious that we must do more.

According to the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), they are investigating an outbreak of illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 in the U.S associated with romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley region of California. According to the FDA and CDC, as of November 22, 2019, 40 people have been infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 in 16 states. The illnesses started on dates ranging from September 24, 2019 to November 10, 2019.

FDA’s recommendation for consumers: “Consumers should not eat romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California. Additionally, consumers should not eat products identified in the recall announced by the USDA on November 21, 2019. Romaine lettuce that was harvested outside of the Salinas region has not been implicated in this outbreak investigation. Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine, which is voluntarily labeled as “indoor grown,” from any region does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. There is no recommendation for consumers to avoid using romaine harvested from these other sources.” 

You can read the entire FDA advisory here and the CDC advisory here.

Farmers, shippers and processors of romaine products are working cooperatively with their retail and foodservice customers to remove all romaine grown in the Salinas region quickly and effectively from market channels to protect public health.

The Grower Shipper Association has retained Dr. David Acheson, former Associate Commissioner of Food for the FDA and The Acheson Group, to help us and our members identify and prioritize next steps toward better solutions as well as work collaboratively with government health agencies and other food safety experts.

We said that many have worked hard to improve, and this is true – we have strengthened our food safety practices which are verified through mandatory government audits and new studies are now underway to advance new science and solutions at the Center for Produce Safety. This diligent work should not be diminished but we must do more and we must do it faster.

To those who are suffering with this illness and their families and loved ones, we know our apologies aren’t enough, as heartfelt as they are. GSA is committed to keeping you informed about how we advance continuous improvement in food safety for romaine products because that is truly what this is about: Making both the big and small changes throughout the supply chain, from farm to fork, each and every day. And, most importantly, keeping the health of consumers in our hearts and minds with every decision we make.