Investigators continue to search for the source of an E. coli outbreak that has sickened 172 people in 32 states, but a straightforward solution has not been forthcoming.
“To date, the available information indicates that romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region is the source of the current outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections, but (the romaine) was supplied to restaurants and retailers through multiple processors, grower-shipper companies and farms,” the Food and Drug Administration stated in an update May 16. “The information we have collected indicates that the illnesses associated with this outbreak cannot be explained by a single grower, harvester, processor or distributor.”
The FDA traced eight illnesses in Alaska to Harrison Farms in Yuma, but it does not know whether contamination occurred there or elsewhere in the supply chain.
“While traceback continues, FDA will focus on trying to identify factors that contributed to contamination of romaine across multiple supply chains,” the FDA stated in the update. “The agency is examining all possibilities, including that contamination may have occurred at any point along the growing, harvesting, packaging, and distribution chain before reaching consumers.”
People affected by the outbreak fell ill between March 13 and May 2. The last romaine shipments from Yuma were April 16, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised consumers that product from the region is unlikely to be in homes, stores or restaurants any longer given the 21-day shelf life of the product.