The Food and Drug Administration is urging the produce industry and various organizations studying how E. coli came into contact with romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arzi., to continue working with the agency on the issue.
The FDA’s Aug. 6 request, in an update on the outbreak, comes on the heels of its participation in the Leafy Greens Food Safety Task Force meetings July 31 and Aug. 1 in Yuma.
“Broad engagement from the surrounding community is critical to developing and implementing remediation measures to reduce the potential of another outbreak,” the FDA said in an Aug. 6 update on the outbreak that killed five people and sickened 200 people in 36 states.
“We believe local in-depth knowledge and actions are critical in helping resolve this issue in order to protect public health,” according to the notice.
During the task force meeting, the FDA shared its preliminary hypothesis on what happened “to facilitate conversations with state and local officials, industry and local growers on the hypotheses and associated actions necessary to prevent such an outbreak from occurring again,” according to the Aug. 6 notice.
According to the FDA, samples of canal water tested positive for the strain of E. coli associated with the outbreak. One explanation for the outbreak cause is that the water came into contact with the lettuce through direct irrigation or other means.
The FDA reported that the canal is near what is referred to a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) — which can hold more than 100,000 head of cattle. There’s a “clustering” of romaine lettuce farms in the area.
The FDA’s full report, called the Environmental Assessment, will be released when complete, according to the agency. In the meantime, the FDA continues to investigate the potential links between the water and CAFO, and “geologic and other factors that may explain the contamination and its relationship to the outbreak,” according to the FDA update.
More samples of the surrounding are being analyzed.