The investigation continues into where the recent romaine lettuce containing a strain of E. coli bacteria originated. After the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a warning last week for consumers to discard any of the product, and for stores to remove it from shelves, arrows pointed towards California as a source. The illness reports happened in October and romaine supply during that time is dominated by the golden state. Monterey County Agriculture Commissioner Henry Gonzales told Salinas-based newspaper The Californian that it’s very likely from his region.
Romaine growers across the country were impacted by the CDC announcement however with the product being pulled from store shelves days before Thanksgiving. Florida groups said their growers hadn’t started harvesting in October and major growers like Taylor Farms had social media campaigns saying this was a voluntary recall and they stand by their product and it’s safety. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb took to Twitter over the Thanksgiving holiday to explain why such a blanket warning was issued. Gottlieb tweeted “Some lettuce packing is labeled in a way that doesn’t make it clear where the product was grown. If you look at a package of lettuce, it’s most likely going to have the address of the company on the back; not the location of the growing fields. That’s a large part of why we issued such a broad warning. Our ultimate goal is the protection of consumers. And entering into a holiday weekend that’s very food-centric, we felt the need to make this statement. It’s likely that the implicated produce is from California.”
Major romaine producers Taylor Farms, Church Brothers, Fresh Express, Dole Fresh Vegetables, Earthbound Farms, and FiveStar Gourmet Foods have banded together to try and change that labeling inaccuracy in the short-term. The group submitted an official letter to FDA Commissioners and Directors to gain clearance on retail shelves by proposing the addition of growing regions and harvest dates to their packaging.