What’s happening to romaine lettuce? Short answer, E.coli. The long answer is much more detailed and may explain the increasing issue of recalls of ground beef and box foods, like Duncan Hinds cake mix.
On November 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a food safety alert letting consumers know not to eat any romaine lettuce, and retailers not to serve any until there is more information about the outbreak.
Well after some time, that information became available and the culprit of the outbreak was E. coli. This outbreak made more than “30 people across multiple states” sick USA Today reports. The lettuce in question likely came from California and is “based on observed ‘growing and harvesting patterns'” Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.
This isn’t the first E. coli outbreak. Earlier this year, in Yuma, Arizona, “a contaminated irrigation canal near an animal feeding operation” killed five and made 170 sick Iohud reports.
But is dirty water the cause of the outbreak? According to an article from Wired, that seems to be the case. Via Wired,
After several high-profile disease outbreaks linked to food, Congress in 2011 ordered a fix, and produce growers this year would have begun testing their water under rules crafted by the Obama administration’s Food and Drug Administration. But six months before people were sickened by the contaminated romaine, President Donald Trump’s FDA – responding to pressure from the farm industry and Trump’s order to eliminate regulations – shelved the water-testing rules for at least four years. Despite this deadly outbreak, the FDA has shown no sign of reconsidering its plan to postpone the rules. The agency also is considering major changes, such as allowing some produce growers to test less frequently or find alternatives to water testing to ensure the safety of their crops.
Essentially, under President Trump’s administration Farmers have leeway on what they have to do to ensure their crops are market ready. President Obama along with Congress changed how testing was supposed to go and Trump stopped it.
While every food isn’t required testing due to their resistance to pathogens, with the increase of outbreaks, it is needed to ensure citizens remain healthy.
For more information on what to do if you have lettuce, check out the CDC’s instructions here.