One unintended consequence of the partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22 has been an apparent suspension in foodborne outbreak investigation updates.
One effect of the government shutdown appears to be the lack of updates on the E. coli investigation relating to romaine lettuce, said Jennifer McEntire, vice president of food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association.
She said Jan. 4 that the Food and Drug Administration’s latest update on its website is Dec. 17 and advises consumers to avoid romaine from Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Barbara counties in California.
While the FDA has not declared the outbreak is over, McEntire said that Canada health officials lifted their advisory before Christmas.
McEntire said she assumes the U.S. has not lifted the advisory because of the partial government shutdown. She said removing that advisory is needed for those operations in those counties as they prepare to plant next season’s crops.
“The ramification is that we are in January now, and how can you as an operation feel comfortable planting (for next season) when you’re still under an advisory?” she said.