The Food and Drug Administration has released a list of the California Central Coast counties it has targeted as the potential origin of E. coli tainted romaine lettuce.
The counties named in a Nov. 28 update on the investigation into the E. coli outbreak are:
- San Benito
- San Luis Obispo
- Santa Barbara
- Santa Cruz
“The FDA has been conducting a traceback investigation, reviewing shipping records and invoices to trace the supply of romaine from the place where ill people were exposed to the place where that romaine was grown,” according to the agency’s notice.
The FDA reiterated that romaine coming back on the market has been grown outside of those counties and is safe to eat. Romaine from California’s Imperial Valley is not implicated in the outbreak.
Federal health agencies issued a broad warning to avoid the lettuce on Nov. 20, virtually stopping the availability across the U.S. supply chain. Produce industry groups, growers and processors worked with the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over other the long Thanksgiving holiday and announced an agreement that allowed romaine to return on Nov. 26.
That includes a voluntary labeling standard noting where the product was grown and when it was harvested. Although voluntary, the FDA is warning customers not to purchase romaine that lacks the label or retail bulk romaine displays that have no signs declaring origin.
“If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it,” according to the FDA notice.
“If romaine lettuce does have this labeling information, we advise avoiding any product from the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. Romaine lettuce from outside those regions need not be avoided.”
Hydroponic/greenhouse lettuce is also excluded as a possible source, the agency reported.