The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local partners, continues to investigate a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses linked to romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Ariz. growing region. The agency has identified Harrison Farms as the source of the whole-head romaine lettuce that sickened several people at a correctional facility in Alaska. However, the FDA has not determined where in the supply chain the contamination occurred. It is examining all possibilities, including that contamination may have occurred at any point along the growing, harvesting, packaging, and distribution chain before reaching the Alaska correctional facility where it was served.
All of the lettuce in question from Harrison Farms was harvested during March 5–16 and is past its 21-day shelf life. Because the growing season in the Yuma region is at its end, the farm is currently not growing any lettuce.
Most of the illnesses in this outbreak are not linked to romaine lettuce from this farm. The agency is investigating dozens of other fields as potential sources of the chopped romaine lettuce and will share information as it becomes available.
To date, the FDA also has no evidence that other types of lettuce, or romaine lettuce grown outside of the Yuma growing region, are involved in this outbreak.
“Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers continue to be with those impacted by this incident,” said Teressa Lopez, food safety committee administrator for Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA), a voluntary organization that works in conjunction with the California LGMA and both states’ agriculture departments to ensure members meet self-imposed food safety requirements. “Our food safety protocol is strong, but it’s impossible to be completely infallible with the vast number of environmental variables at play,” continued Lopez. “Our primary intent is to minimize risk and protect consumers, and the members of our organization remain absolutely committed to that.”