After a week-long warning against eating any romaine lettuce due to an E. coli outbreak, Food and Drug Administration officials have confirmed that some lettuce is now safe to eat as long as detailed information about its growth region is provided on the label. Consumers should avoid any romaine lettuce grown in Coastal Central region of northern and central California, ABC News reported.
This Californian region is believed to be the source of the E. coli outbreak. Specifically, the outbreak is connected to romaine lettuce grown at the end of the summer season.
Romaine lettuce products should be labeled with a harvest location by region, the official Center for Disease Control and Prevention report says, per NBC News. Packages labeled with a harvest region outside of the Central Coastal growing region of northern and central California are not affected by the outbreak.
This includes, but is not limited to, the desert growing region near Yuma, the California desert growing region near Imperial County and Riverside County, Florida, and Mexico. There is also no evidence that shows hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine is unsafe to consume.
The CDC is still investigating the outbreak. No common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified as the culprit yet.
“If you do not know where your romaine lettuce is from, do not eat it,” a statement from the CDC read.
Outbreak Alert: Don’t eat romaine lettuce from the Coastal Central growing regions of northern and central California. If you can’t confirm where it was grown, don’t eat it. https://t.co/NrFOIxG8hx pic.twitter.com/vErydFImny
— CDC (@CDCgov) November 27, 2018
If the lettuce does not come in packaging, retailers are being asked to provide the harvesting information at the registers. Restaurants are also being advised to check the packaging on romaine lettuce before cooking with the product.
“Knowing the growing origin of produce will continue to play an important role in allowing consumers to avoid contaminated products and facilitating market withdrawals and tracebacks,” FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement, which NBC News reported.
Drawers and refrigerators which contained romaine lettuce should still be thoroughly cleaned.
Although E. coli is normally harmless, this particular strain called E. coli 0157:H7, produces a compound called Shiga toxin that causes severe sickness. Forty-three cases of this strain have been reported in 12 states, with 16 patients being hospitalized. One patient has a serious kidney condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome. Another 22 cases were reported in Canada. No deaths have been reported yet.
Because of the “clean break” from romaine, the affected products have likely already been discarded from stores. However, contaminated lettuce could still be in consumers’ homes, as romaine lettuce has a shelf life of 21 days, according to Bloomberg.