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CFIA warns on California romaine lettuce

Traceback points to lettuce from Central Coast region

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is advising lettuce buyers such as retailers and restaurants not to sell, serve or import romaine lettuce from parts of California tied to the latest E. coli outbreak.

The warning follows an announcement Monday from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that its preliminary traceback shows people sickened by E. coli in several areas across that country were exposed to romaine lettuce harvested in California.

Canadian and U.S. food safety officials have been investigating outbreaks of E. coli-related illnesses in several provinces and states between mid-October and early November, including 43 cases in 12 states — mostly in California, New Jersey, Michigan and New York — and 22 in Canada, including 17 in Quebec, four in Ontario and one in New Brunswick.

As of Wednesday, FDA said, its evidence indicates the romaine in question was harvested in the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California — specifically Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura counties.

“Romaine harvested from locations outside of the California regions identified by the traceback investigation does not appear to be related to the current outbreak,” FDA said.

Hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine also don’t appear to be related to the current outbreak, the U.S. agency said.

Canadian distributors, importers, restaurants, retailers and institutions are advised not to distribute, import, sell, serve or use romaine or products containing romaine harvested in the 2018 growing season from those parts of California FDA has identified.

Any companies unsure if they have the affected products are advised to contact their suppliers or industry trade groups, CFIA said. “If the origin cannot be identified, do not sell, use or serve the product.”

CFIA said Monday it will set up “additional control measures” to verify products from the areas FDA has identified are not being admitted to Canada. “This includes, for example, greater scrutiny of product destined for Canada.”

On the Canadian side of the investigation, while “epidemiological evidence” points to romaine lettuce as the common product in the Canadian cases, all products sampled so far have tested negative for E. coli O157 and “we have not been able to identify any contaminated product in the Canadian marketplace,” CFIA said. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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