Leafy Greens Community Working Cooperatively to Provide Assurances About Safety of Romaine from Winter Growing Regions
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has amended the advisory from last week so that shipments of romaine can resume to grocery stores and restaurants.
Excerpt: Based on discussions with major producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date. Romaine lettuce entering the market can also be labeled as being hydroponically or greenhouse grown. If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it.
The FDA has urged growers, processors, distributors and retailers to:
- clearly and prominently label all individually packaged romaine products to identify growing region and harvest date for romaine; and
- clearly and prominently label at the point of sale the growing region when it is not possible for romaine lettuce suppliers to label the package (e.g. individual unwrapped whole heads of romaine lettuce available in retail stores).
Farming companies and government agencies have agreed to new labeling on packaging which include “harvested after” dates so it is clear to consumers the romaine they purchase is not associated with the current outbreak. This new romaine labeling will also indicate growing regions that were not harvesting romaine during the October outbreak timeframe.
We are hopeful this effort will assure consumers and our customers that romaine they buy from here on out is not involved in the outbreak. On behalf of LGMA members in California and Arizona who produce over 90 percent of the leafy greens consumed in the U.S., we continue to express how truly sorry we are to those who have been sickened by this outbreak.
Since the E. coli outbreak was announced, the FDA, CDC and the leafy greens community have focused on the complete removal of all potentially implicated romaine products from store shelves and restaurants as well as withdrawing these products before they entered commerce. This complete removal of romaine from consumer supply chains as well as harvesting and distribution channel data supplied by the produce industry helped FDA and CDC to recognize that certain regions were not shipping at the time of the outbreak.
The LGMA continues to provide our full support to government agencies investigating this outbreak. We are working cooperatively with public health agencies and industry food safety experts to determine how romaine came to be implicated in this outbreak. Involved in this process are our partners at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which performs regular audits of our members’ operations to verify they are following required food safety practices. Any information we learn from this outbreak can be incorporated into the LGMA food safety practices required of all members.
We must do better and redouble efforts to determine how and why this happened. In the meantime, the LGMA is communicating with leafy greens growers and shippers to ensure they understand how to incorporate the new labeling practices so that moving forward packages will clearly identify the specific region of production and harvest date.
We are committed to transparent and constant improvement to our food safety systems to protect public health.