Nov 21, 2018Growers urge romaine withdrawal. ‘Food safety is our top priority’
A number of Southwest greens grower organizations are urging an industry-wide voluntary withdrawal of romaine lettuce following an E. coli outbreak reported by government health agencies.
The Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Western Growers, Yuma Safe Produce Council and the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association signed a joint statement on Nov. 20 that was posted to arizonaleafygreens.org:
“In light of today’s announcement by government health agencies in the U.S. and Canada of an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine, a group of produce industry associations (listed below) is relying on producers and retail/restaurant customers to support the government health agency advisories and is urging an industry-wide voluntary withdrawal of all romaine currently in marketing channels and held in inventory.
“Food safety is our top priority. 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.
“We are echoing the government health agencies’ advice to consumers, restaurants and retailers not to eat, serve or sell romaine lettuce at this time. The FDA is further advising consumers to throw away any romaine they may have in their homes.
“In order to be sure that any romaine lettuce that may have been responsible for illnesses is completely gone, we are urging full compliance with the government’s request for a voluntary withdrawal of all romaine.
“We believe a withdrawal of romaine lettuce is the fastest way to clear up the supply chain of any romaine that could be responsible for illnesses and to make a hard, convincing and clean break from harvesting and shipping romaine lettuce until this outbreak is declared over or the source of the implicated produce can be identified. Additionally, we are calling on handlers to clean and sanitize any equipment that may have been used in recent weeks to prevent cross-contamination of product during future harvest, processing and distribution activities.
“A group of food safety experts from the produce industry is coming together as quickly as possible to closely examine information that may help pinpoint the specific source of the outbreak utilizing the extensive traceback information maintained by leafy greens producers.
“The goal of this effort is to learn any information about the geographic region or specific farms that may be tied to this outbreak. Government agencies have indicated the E. coli isolate involved in this outbreak has been closely related by Whole Genome Sequencing data to two past outbreaks linked to leafy greens in 2016 and 2017.
“No one wants to get to the bottom of how these outbreaks are occurring faster than the producers of leafy greens. 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.
“It should be noted this outbreak and the consumer advisories are limited to romaine lettuce only and do not impact other leafy greens products such as iceberg, green leaf or spinach.”