It’s a problem that needs addressing.
California is suspected to be the source of the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak across the country, according to the FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
A food safety alert, published Tuesday by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has advised against selling or eating romaine lettuce — and people can’t help wondering what the cause is.
The strain of bacteria that caused last year’s E. coli outbreak — killing one and sickening 25 people — is “very very similar to the one that’s causing this outbreak and the timing is exactly the same,” Gottlieb told NBC News.
“So it’s likely associated with end-of-season harvests in California, where most of the romaine that is currently on the market is from.”
Gottlieb doesn’t think romaine is a riskier type of lettuce, but maybe the reasoning behind the outbreak could be how it’s packaged.
“I think we are going to be in a position to isolate the region soon. There is some lettuce coming in from Mexico but most of what’s on the market is the result of end-of-the-season harvesting coming out of California right now,” he said.
Thirty-two people in 11 states have already been affected from Oct. 8 to 31.
No deaths have been reported, but 13 people have been hospitalized — including one who suffered a type of kidney failure, according to the CDC.
Scott Horsfall, the CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, agrees with the potential source.
“Given the harvest cycle at that time, I think there’s a good possibility that it came from California, yes,” Horsfall told CBS News.
The investigation is ongoing until more is known about the specific grower, supplier and distributor. The brand of romaine lettuce has not yet been identified.
Women and girls also appear to be especially affected by the E. coli outbreaks in vegetables.
Of the 32 cases reported as of Nov. 20, some 66% were female, USA Today reported on Wednesday. This mirrors that of two earlier outbreaks, one last spring and another at the end of 2017 involving leafy greens, when 67% of the stricken were female in both cases.