January 27, 2021
The following quote is attributed to Frank Yiannas, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response:
“Through the course of our investigation of the 2020 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections tied to leafy greens, we have built upon knowledge gained during prior leafy greens’ outbreak investigations. Today we are announcing that this investigation is over, and our new findings confirm the presence of a recurring strain of E. coli O157:H7 in a region within Salinas Valley, which could serve as a potential source to be associated with future contamination events. While the growing season in this region is over and no product is currently available for purchase, our findings, which will be detailed in a final report on the investigation, underscores the importance of the Produce Safety Rule and the preventive steps as outlined in our Leafy Greens Action Plan to protect consumers.
“Notably our traceback investigation of this outbreak found the outbreak strain in a sample of cattle feces collected on a roadside about a mile upslope from a produce farm. This finding draws our attention once again to the role that cattle grazing on agricultural lands near leafy greens fields could have on increasing the risk of produce contamination, where contamination could be spread by water, wind or other means. We continue to recommend that growers of leafy greens assess and mitigate risks associated with adjacent and nearby land use practices, particularly as it relates to the presence of livestock, which are a persistent reservoir of E. coli O157:H7 and other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. Increasing awareness around adjacent land use is one of the specific goals of the Leafy Greens Action Plan released last March.
“Although the investigation has been unable to identify a specific type of leafy green at the heart of this outbreak, it is clear that this is yet another outbreak tied to leafy greens. We have been working to achieve the objectives of the Leafy Greens Action Plan, and we look forward to sharing a final investigation report in the near future that will include recommendations shaped by these findings. Helping to ensure the safety of the fresh leafy greens is a shared responsibility that requires shared collaboration among many agricultural stakeholders. We remain dedicated to working together with our state partners and the produce industry to bend the curve of these foodborne illnesses. ”
- On Dec. 22, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that this outbreak appears to be over. Announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC on Oct. 28, 2020, this outbreak made 40 people sick in 19 states.
- Teams deployed to dozens of ranches in the Salinas region found no Shiga toxin-producing (STEC) E. coli on product samples of leafy greens. However, the teams also collected samples of soil, scat or animal droppings, compost, water and other environmental sources and confirmed a positive match to the outbreak strain in a sample of cattle feces collected on a roadside.
- The FDA’s investigational activities have concluded. The agency is reviewing the findings and a detailed report will be released in the near future.
- In the meantime, as recommended in the Leafy Greens Action Plan, the FDA urges farms to be aware of adjacent land use practices, particularly as it relates to the presence of livestock, which are a persistent reservoir of E. coli O157:H7 and other STEC.
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.