What to do about Romaine?

Outbreaks in Romaine Lettuce continue
Image by BlackRiv from Pixabay

There have been five outbreaks of E. coli O157 H7 in Romaine lettuce in the last two years. FIVE!

What the h*ll is going on and what can we do about it?

E. coli O157 H7 and similar strains that produce Shiga toxin are collectively known at STEC.

I just read an article about how to “solve” the problem of STEC in Romaine Lettuce and that reminded me that I had also read Bill Marler’s suggestion that Romaine lettuce has a warning label. In the article Stephen M  Ostroff, former deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the Food and Drug Administration, writes:

“The natural reservoir for this pathogen is ruminant animals, especially cattle. Moreover, one particular strain of E. coli seems to have found a home in the growing regions of central coastal California, returning each fall near the end of the growing season.”

Stephen M Ostroff, Washington Post Nov 26 2019

STEC are endemic in cattle, so that’s what he means when he says “natural reservoir”. Similarly in the US, Salmonella is endemic in chicken and in the UK, Campylobacter appears to be endemic in chicken. I don’t know why exactly. There has been some discussion on the levels of STEC in grass-fed versus feedlot cattle, which I will have to research to check what the results were..

Since the Jack in the Box hamburger outbreak of STEC, manufacturers selling ground beef are required to test their meat to ensure that it is free of the pathogen. They are not allowed to ship ground beef with STEC in it because then it would be considered adulterated and they would be selling their meat illegally. In 1999, that regulations was extended to intact beef as well as ground beef. Beef producers were also required to write HACCP plans to show that they were reducing the risk of contamination from STEC and how they were testing and sampling for STEC. In 2012 this was extended to 6 further STEC that are not O157 H7. 

Perhaps we need to do this for leafy greens too? No shipping of product until you can GUARANTEE that there is no STEC in your lettuce.

Do you know the risks and hazards in your food products? Are you 1000% controlling those hazards? Are you willing to gamble your business and the health of your consumers on this? Don’t leave something this important to chance. Schedule a free Food Safety Strategy Call NOW to check. Do not wait until your hazards are out of control!

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