The United States Food & Drug Administration, along with the Center for Disease Control, announced Tuesday an outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce. Over 32 people in 12 states have been affected by this latest outbreak.
Over the past two years, leafy greens and romaine lettuce have been the suspected vehicle of several E. coli outbreaks across the U.S. and Canada.
The FDA advises restaurants and food operators to stop serving romaine lettuce and consumers to stop eating romaine lettuce until the investigation can pinpoint the origin of the outbreak. Going a step further, a group of government health advisory boards (Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Western Growers, Yuma Safe Produce Council, Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association) is recommending an industry-withdrawal of all romaine lettuce.
The California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA), along with the health advisory boards listed above, released a statement Tuesday responding to the outbreak and how handlers and restaurants can prevent the further spread of the disease.
“We believe a withdrawal of romaine lettuce is the fastest way to clear up the supply chain of any romaine that could be responsible for illnesses and to make a hard, convincing and clean break from harvesting and shipping romaine lettuce until this outbreak is declared over or the source of the implicated produce can be identified,” LGMA said in a statement. “Additionally, we are calling on handlers to clean and sanitize any equipment that may have been used in recent weeks to prevent cross-contamination of product during future harvest, processing and distribution activities.”
Diners want to eat at your restaurant knowing the food has been prepared and handled properly. After any outbreak, restaurants should review safe food preparation and handling measures in place at each establishment. The FDA recommends washing and sanitizing cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils with hot water and soap between uses will help decrease the possibility of cross contamination and spread of disease.
READ MORE: How to establish a food-safety culture in your restaurant.