( File photo )

Traceback investigations into three concurrent E. coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce from the Salinas, Calif., area, has led to one common grower.

The Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Food and Agriculture are investigating several Salinas area ranches used by the grower, according to a Dec. 12 update from the FDA on the E. coli outbreaks. 

The FDA has not identified the grower, but it had been focusing on three Salinas-area farms early in its investigation into the first of the three E. coli outbreaks.
The FDA reported that growing regions outside of Salinas have not been implicated in the outbreaks.

The agency continues to advise consumers to avoid Salinas romaine, a message it first released on Nov. 22, triggering a voluntary withdrawal of romaine products and curtailed harvest in the area, which was beginning to wrap up for the season.

Details on the three outbreaks, which have distinct and separate strains of E. coli:

Outbreak 1: This outbreak, which brought about the removal of Salinas romaine, has sickened 102 people in 23 states, with the latest onset of Nov. 18. The Maryland Department of Health on Nov. 15 reported it tested an unopened Ready Pac brand Caesar salad kit; it tested positive for E. coli, leading investigators to the three Salinas area farms. On Dec. 10, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said a bag of Fresh Express chopped romaine from Salinas, found in an ill person’s home, tested positive for the E. coli strain in this outbreak.

Outbreak 2: Thirteen E. coli cases were traced to six Seattle Evergreens restaurants, and the FDA reported Dec. 12 romaine was involved. Sick people reported eating at the restaurants between Nov. 5-1; by Dec. 6 all patients had recovered, according to the King County Public Health Department.

Outbreak 3: Eight E. coli cases in the U.S. and 16 in Canada were linked to Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits, causing a recall in Canada on Dec. 8 and an FDA advisory to not eat the salads on Dec. 9. Six of the U.S. patients reported “eating or maybe eating” the Fresh Express salad.

Scott Horsfall of the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement said Dec. 10 that he’s confident romaine from Salinas is no longer in the marketplace due to the FDA advisory on Nov. 22 and the products being past their “best by” dates.

“Our main hope, obviously, is that we learn something” from the investigations into the cause of the outbreaks, he said.

The California LGMA released a statement on Dec. 12 with a list of points that unify the outbreaks, including:

  • Illnesses are from a similar time frame, with the most recent one in mid-November;
  • The most likely item linking the outbreaks is Salinas romaine, which is no longer being harvested, shipped, or carrying a current “best-by” dates;
  • Romaine grown outside the Salinas area, or any other leafy green, has not been implicated.

“The leafy greens community appreciates governments’ efforts to provide greater transparency and we realize detailed information is critical to learning what can be done to prevent future outbreaks,” according to the LGMA statement. “We continue to work with government agencies to learn all we can about these outbreaks so that our food safety practices can be improved to prevent future illnesses. 

“As always, our thoughts are with those whose lives have been impacted in these outbreaks.”

Related stories:

Fresh Express romaine in Wisconsin tests positive for E. coli

Seattle E. coli patients recover; investigation continues

Fresh Express kit named in U.S., Canada E. coli cases

 
Comments
Submitted by Carolyn on Fri, 12/13/2019 - 18:51

C'mon growers and packers, time for candor: does this have anything with fieldhand poop?

Submitted by Dennis on Fri, 12/13/2019 - 21:45

Of course. Walk into a public bathroom in Calif. Used toilet paper with poop in the trash can. Used diapers in shopping carts. Used diapers on picnic tables.

Polio, tuberculosis, whooping cough, measles, deadly flu.......

But to point out the painfully obvious would be racist.

In reply to by Carolyn (not verified)

Submitted by nora g on Sat, 12/14/2019 - 19:48

Dennis first, do you work in an agricultural setting?
second, have you done DNA tests on those filthy items you mentioned? hate to break it to you, not just fieldworkers leave those things as you said.
third, "to point those things out would be racist" yes, you're right because the context in which you commented was implying only Mexicans (fieldworkers) leave such messes. check yourself for racist comments with an open mind if you can pry it open.

In reply to by Dennis (not verified)

Submitted by Jane Doe on Fri, 12/13/2019 - 20:35

Probably

Submitted by 707 Tiny town on Sat, 12/14/2019 - 00:00

More like contaminated irrigation water. You would have to spray shit all over the fields to get contamination on this scale. Mexicans don't spraying shit out there asses while at work.

Submitted by Rose on Sat, 12/14/2019 - 07:53

Didn’t take long for the racist to rear their ugly head! Go pick the food yourselves to insure nobody shits on it except you!

Submitted by Barry Cooper on Sat, 12/14/2019 - 11:23

These are not racial issues but rather cultural and economic issues. Most contamination occurs during food preparation. Food contamination has been a regular occurrence for ever. Only today's science and social media scrutiny has been able to bring it to everyone's attention. Unfortunately food contamination at some level is as common as automobile accidents.

Submitted by Olive on Sat, 12/14/2019 - 15:08

nobody's talking about the role CAFOs play in these oubreaks. not like some worker's dirty hands could contaminate that much romaine from 3 different farms.
the FDA needs to be more transparent. irrigation water contaminated with animal feces is definitely to blame here

Submitted by Daniel Salaz on Sat, 12/14/2019 - 17:32

Wait just one minute. As I live surrounded by fields the one thing I noticed right away is that there are no fences around or above the fields.

In thinking that through we have wild boar that sometimes roams around and at times enters the fields. In addition to possum, raccoon, coyote, bobcat, deer, snakes throughout the Salinas Valley. In the air Birds galore.

Any one of these could be the culprit for E. Coli outbreaks. This in the harvest or packaging stages is always a possibility. The packaging process rinses very diligently the food it packages and continuously sanitizes its equipment.

We are quick to offer our opinions never having to grow a single thing, to know the complexities it takes to put something on your table.

Please show a little respect for the hard worker who breaks their back and handles all the food you put on your table. Coming from a third world country it takes a few generations to actually integrate properly and learn then accepted standards in society. When you don’t come from that it is easy to judge. Just ask the Italians who first emigrated and how they were treated. The Irish? The list goes on and on but now generations later the poor immigrants from Europe are easy to attack those who they were a few generations ago. Somebody needs get a reality check here your obvious racism is evident from the outset.

Please offer solutions we can see the problem but personal attacks are not the answer.

Submitted by FindingBigFoot on Sun, 12/15/2019 - 00:46

@Daniel Salaz on Sat, 12/14/2019 Well stated well stated.

In reply to by Daniel Salaz (not verified)

Submitted by Daniel Salaz on Sat, 12/14/2019 - 17:33

Wait just one minute. As I live surrounded by fields the one thing I noticed right away is that there are no fences around or above the fields.

In thinking that through we have wild boar that sometimes roams around and at times enters the fields. In addition to possum, raccoon, coyote, bobcat, deer, snakes throughout the Salinas Valley. In the air Birds galore.

Any one of these could be the culprit for E. Coli outbreaks. This in the harvest or packaging stages is always a possibility. The packaging process rinses very diligently the food it packages and continuously sanitizes its equipment.

We are quick to offer our opinions never having to grow a single thing, to know the complexities it takes to put something on your table.

Please show a little respect for the hard worker who breaks their back and handles all the food you put on your table. Coming from a third world country it takes a few generations to actually integrate properly and learn then accepted standards in society. When you don’t come from that it is easy to judge. Just ask the Italians who first emigrated and how they were treated. The Irish? The list goes on and on but now generations later the poor immigrants from Europe are easy to attack those who they were a few generations ago. Somebody needs get a reality check here your obvious racism is evident from the outset.

Please offer solutions we can see the problem but personal attacks are not the answer.

Submitted by nora g on Sat, 12/14/2019 - 19:40

I'm married to a man who worked in the lettuce fields in Salinas where this outbreak occurred. this was not worker caused. they are required to wear gloves at all times during work. should one go to the bathroom and their personal cutting knife is placed in a bucket of disinfectant, gloves are removed & hands are washed. all this before entering the port-a-potty. upon exiting, the employee is watched to ensure hands are washed then disinfected. new gloves are put on and only THEN can the employee retrieve his knife. it's long been suspected that contamination occurs outside of work hours by wild animals. very few fields have fences to keep animals out. tothose of you exhibiting your racism openly I tell you this: don't judge because all of US born here know how you people are & we don't talk shit unless provoked. next time you want to fix something, look in the mirror first.

Submitted by This Is Awesome on Wed, 12/18/2019 - 15:47

The Packer has brought back its commenting section without needing to login.....

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Good to bring back a pre-2016 feature. Now this is news that matters.

Submitted by Yay Comments on Wed, 12/18/2019 - 17:51

Yay to The Packer bringing back a Wild West comment section!

The gift that keeps giving!