Produce industry expects to ship some romaine again soon

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Now, the Malaysian Ministry of Health has issued a statement yesterday (26th November), confirming that Malaysia does import Romaine lettuce from the US and the ministry has been screening the imported lettuce using the "Stop, Test, and Release" protocol that was initiated on 23rd November. As part of the food safety investigation, romaine lettuce is being sampled and tested. The probe is still underway, but has been narrowed down to some areas in California that grew romaine lettuce over the summer. The strain in this one has the same genetic fingerprint as the one that caused illnesses late a year ago in the United States and Canada. "Until such a time that they find the true cause of the outbreak, you should not eat any romaine lettuce", food safety expert Darin Detwiler, director of the Regulatory Affairs of Food and Food Industries program at Northeastern University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Lettuce growing and harvesting in the winter months is taking place in California and Arizona's desert regions and Florida, as well as Mexico. Industry leaders are hoping that federal officials will ultimately be able to tailor their warning to consumers and retailers to clear regions like Yuma from being implicated in the current outbreak.

Robert Whitaker, chief science officer of the Produce Marketing Association, said labelling for romaine could help limit the scope of future alerts and rebuild public trust after other outbreaks. "The devil is in the details". Gottlieb confirmed over the weekend that the outbreak is likely tied to California-grown lettuce, but the government hasn't yet amended its advisory. "One goal we're seeking is to make this type of labeling the new standard rather than a short-term fix; as a way to improve identification and traceability in the system".

That's up from 32 people sickened, including 13 hospitalized, in 11 states last week, and there could be more cases coming.

This is because of an outbreak of E. Coli (a pathogenic bacteria) that contaminated a large batch of this lettuce. The latest outbreak, which coincides with California's major growing season, doesn't appear to be connected.

In Canada, based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to romaine lettuce has been identified as a source of the outbreak, but the cause of contamination has not been identified. An industry group said people can expect to start seeing labels as early as this week. The FDA last week advised anyone who had romaine lettuce in their homes or businesses to withdraw and destroy the leafy greens. Last year, this outbreak was actually linked to some leafy greens which were sold in the United States as well as Canada.