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  1. FDA In Brief

FDA In Brief: FDA Announces Investigation of a Third Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7

November 10, 2020

Media Inquiries
Amanda Turney
301-796-2969

The following quote is attributed to Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response:

“The FDA is investigating a third outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 illnesses that matches the E. coli O157:H7 strain found by Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) in Tanimura & Antle brand packaged single head romaine lettuce. It is important to note that the E.coli strain identified in this outbreak is not genetically related to either of the E. coli strains that we reported investigating on Oct. 28. This is a new and separate outbreak.”

“At this time, there is not enough epidemiologic and traceback evidence to determine if ill people in this outbreak were exposed to romaine lettuce from Tanimura & Antle, Inc. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

“Consumers, restaurants and retailers should not eat, sell or serve recalled Tanimura & Antle, Inc. brand packaged single head romaine lettuce with a pack date of Oct. 15 or 16. We are actively investigating with our partners and will provide additional information as it becomes available.

“This investigation reinforces our recommendations to the leafy greens industry that producers should continue to review their practices and reinforces that traceability can assist with investigations.”

Additional Information:

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local partners, are investigating a third outbreak of foodborne illness of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157:H7 (STEC).
  • On Nov. 6, Tanimura & Antle, Inc. recalled packaged single head romaine lettuce with a pack date of Oct. 15 or 16 due to possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7. The firm recalled this product based on test results from a product sample collected and analyzed by MDARD, which determined that the strain of E. coli found in the product matches the strain causing a third distinct outbreak in the U.S.  
  • At this time, there is not enough epidemiologic and traceback evidence to determine if ill people in this outbreak were exposed to romaine lettuce from Tanimura & Antle, Inc. 
  • The FDA and state partners are working with the firm to determine if additional romaine should be recalled. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available. 
  • The FDA has taken a number of actions to help prevent foodborne illness outbreaks and strengthen safeguards for consumers as part of our New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative, including the issuance of the Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan, which outlines actions that the FDA is taking in 2020 to advance work in three areas: prevention, response and addressing knowledge gaps. Actions completed this year include:
    • Published a report following our investigation into three 2019 outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 in leafy greens grown in the Salinas Valley, California, which further increased our understanding of how the leafy greens may have become contaminated and the impact of animal activity on adjacent and nearby land as a potential contributing factor. 
    • During the 2020 growing/harvest season, in collaboration with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), prioritized inspections and other surveillance activities at farms identified by traceback in E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks that occurred in 2019 resulting in contamination of romaine lettuce in the Salinas Valley growing area. These inspections were intended to further investigate harvest operations and factors in the environment that may have contributed to the introduction and transmission of E. coli O157:H7 related to the 2019 outbreaks. 
    • Initiated a longitudinal research study with CDFA and other agricultural partners in California to improve food safety through our enhanced understanding of the ecology of human pathogens in the Salinas, California region environment that may cause foodborne illness outbreaks. In addition, the FDA’s inspection activity in the Central Coast, Central Valley, and Imperial Valley in California and in Yuma, Arizona, includes sampling and testing for pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella with a new sampling assignment as well as sampling assignments for the last few years.

Additional Resources:

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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