Lettuce Recall Expanded Again, Random Checks Found Deadly Bacteria

Last month’s deadly cantaloupe recall which sickened people- mostly elderly folks- across several states was not the end of listeria outbreaks threatening the supply of produce in the US.

As Michael reported yesterday, another massive recall is underway, with the same potentially lethal bacteria potentially contaminating supplies of lettuce in a whopping 19 states. The lettuce recall has actually ranged a bit more widely than the cantaloupe one, which spanned 18 states and has so far been linked to as many as 16 deaths. Listeriosis can take a while to set in after the consumption of contaminated food, and it may also take food safety officials quite some time to determine the number of victims who succumbed to the illness. (It is likely that not all deaths will be connected to the contaminated cantaloupe.)

According to the Wall Street Journal, the likelihood that the contamination turned up at all was low as regulating bodies has just been randomly testing green leafy vegetables in hopes of better understanding food safety:

“It’s random chance that this was found,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food-safety director at the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest. She said contamination in leafy green vegetables is most often discovered after illnesses lead federal officials back to a commodity.

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Testing of the leafy greens began in June and is expected to continue through some of 2012. Since food safety officials began testing the produce, three potential outbreaks of listeriosis have been revealed. 34% of 82 food-borne illness outbreaks from a 12 year period beginning in 1998 were directly linked to green, leafy veggies.