USA – FDA says poor records stalled outbreak work; feedlot likely source of E. coli

Food Safety News

Federal officials won’t say definitively that contaminated canal water was behind this year’s deadly E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, but they are saying they “found no evidence in support of alternative explanations.” 

Another point made clear in an outbreak investigation report released yesterday puts the FDA firmly on record when it comes to antiquated shipping and receiving recordkeeping used by many in the leafy greens industry. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, issued a blunt statement calling for growers, processors and distributors to do the right thing.  

Gottlieb said what consumer groups and industry observers have been saying for months — traceback efforts to determine the specific romaine behind the outbreak were “challenging” because most of the necessary records were hand written and/or were not available electronically. Those out-of-date methods resulted in the FDA and CDC telling the public to avoid all romaine grown in the Yuma, AZ, area earlier this year because specific growers and shippers could not be identified. 

“We strongly encourage the leafy greens industry to adopt traceability best practices and state-of-the-art technologies to help assure quick and easy access to key data elements from farm to fork,” Gottlieb said.

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