The FDA has completed its investigation of the multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses linked to romaine lettuce grown in California in Fall 2018. On February 13, 2019, FDA released an overview of the investigation approach and factors that potentially contributed to the contamination of romaine lettuce with E. coli O157:H7 in this outbreak: Investigation Summary: Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Romaine Lettuce Implicated in the Fall 2018 Multi-State Outbreak of E. coliO157:H7. This document also provides recommendations to industry for prevention of pathogenic E. coli O157:H7 contamination that is based on the findings outlined in the document.
Additionally, FDA offers the following recommendations to industry to develop and enhance commodity-specific procedures, policies and best practices to enhance the safety of leafy greens:
FDA continues to advise leafy green growers, buyer/shippers, and retailers to develop real-time procedures to quickly explore the possible scope, source(s) and route(s) of contamination when human pathogens of public health significance are detected by routine pre-harvest or finished product verification testing. Local in-depth knowledge and actions are critical in helping determine likely potential routes of contamination of leafy greens in the regions in which they are grown.
FDA strongly encourages the entire leafy greens supply chain to adopt traceability best practices and state-of-the-art technology to assure quick, accurate and easy access to key data elements from farm to fork when leafy greens are involved in a potential recall or outbreak.
FDA believes that widespread industry adoption of existing and emerging technologies, that can be used to trace product from the field to the consumer’s kitchen in real time, is critical to protecting the public during a foodborne illness outbreak linked to leafy greens.