( File photo )

A Food and Drug Administration program that tested numerous romaine samples from Yuma, Ariz., found just one E. coli sample, which was non-pathogenic.

The FDA implemented the sampling program after a spring 2018 E. coli outbreak traced to romaine in Yuma and California growing regions. The agency tested 118 samples for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and salmonella, to help determine whether romaine from the area continued to pose health risks.

The FDA released the results in mid-August.

 “The FDA is continuing to work with leafy greens stakeholders in the Yuma region to consider a longer-term environmental study to identify and control risks that will prevent future outbreaks, with the ultimate goal of protecting consumers,” according to an FDA news release.

The program began in mid-December, with the FDA taking samples from 26 commercial coolers and cold storage facilities used to remove field heat from the lettuce. The process allowed the agency to collect samples from multiple producers from centralized locations, according to the release.

FDA field staff were assisted by the Arizona Department of Agriculture and Arizona Department of Health Services.

The spring 2018 outbreak made 210 people in 36 states ill and resulted in five deaths. An investigation into the cause implicated one farm, but the FDA said the widespread nature of the illnesses indicated other farms may have contributed as well.

There have been five suspected or confirmed foodborne illness outbreaks linked to vegetables from the Yuma region since 2012, according to the FDA report on the sampling program.

The FDA is working with leafy greens growers and stakeholders in the Yuma area to consider a longer-term environmental study to “identify and control risks that will prevent future outbreaks, with the ultimate goals of protecting consumers.”

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