Romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region is at the center of the largest outbreak of E. coli in the United States in more than a decade. So far, investigations of the outbreak are not yet pointing to a specific source of contamination.
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It is said that the multi-state outbreak of E. coli that has been occurring since mid-March is the largest in the United States in more than a decade.
Have the authorities found the main source of contamination?  The largest outbreak in more than a decade
In its latest update, the FDA described the outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce as the largest since the E. coli outbreak in 2006 linked to spinach baby As of May 31, 197 people from 35 states have been affected by the outbreak, 89 of whom were hospitalized.
Of the victims, 20 experienced hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is the most serious complication of infection by E. coli O157: H7. This condition can cause kidney damage or premature death to blood cells.
To date, there are five reported deaths related to the outbreak. In a statement, Scott Gottlieb, MD, commissioner of the FDA and Stephen Ostroff, MD, deputy commissioner of the FDA for Food and Veterinary Medicine, said the immediate risks of contamination are now gone.
Contaminated romaine lettuces from the Yuma region have already gone through the food supply chain and are no longer available. However, research on the outbreak is still ongoing to prevent such events from occurring in the future.
The FDA is conducting extensive tracing research in the hope of identifying the specific source of E. coli contamination. Such records involve tracing backward contamination from people who became ill to the farm that produced the lettuce. The suppliers, distributors and processing plants where the product was pocketed can also be included in the investigation.
However, the research has proven to be quite complicated since until now there has been no obvious convergence along the supply chain that could point to a single source of contamination.
In fact, the only clear case is that of a correctional facility in which contamination is directly related to a single farm, but its lettuce was neither processed nor mixed with lettuce from other farms. The only common link is that all the lettuce came from the farms in the Yuma growing region.
So far, what the authorities know is that the contamination probably did not come from a single farm and that it was unlikely to have occurred at the end of the supply chain. In addition, they have also established that the source is very likely from, or somewhere near, the Yuma region, possibly through an external source such as irrigation, pesticide application and animal encroachment. It is also possible that contamination occurred just after the product left the farm.
"Food safety is one of the FDA's top priorities, and this outbreak is a clear illustration of why this is the case, and it shows the terrible consequences when something goes wrong," Gottlieb and Ostroff said in the statement. .
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