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See related story: Industry adopts new label standard, romaine returns to stores


A group of produce industry associations have responded to an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, asking growers and shippers stop harvesting and packing, to “make a hard, convincing and clean break” until the outbreak is declared over.

The statement urged all entities in the romaine lettuce supply chain to stop and remove all product.

“We must take swift action to protect consumers by stopping shipment of romaine lettuce and withdrawing any product that has been shipped to retail stores or restaurants,” according to the letter, which was signed by the United Fresh Produce Association, Produce Marketing Association, the California and Arizona Leafy Green Marketing Agreements, Western Growers, the Yuma Safe Produce Council and the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association.

The group asked growers/handlers to clean and sanitize equipment. According to United Fresh, the onset of illnesses precedes the start of the Yuma harvest.

In the statement, the group announces a plan to bring industry food safety experts together with a goal of using traceback data from growers to pinpoint the origin of the E. coli.

“No one wants to get to the bottom of how these outbreaks are occurring faster than the producers of leafy greens,” according to the statement. “We absolutely must do everything possible to stop recurring outbreaks. We owe this to those whose lives have been tragically impacted by this outbreak and to all our consumers who trust us to grow safe food for their families.”