FDA Says Some Romaine Lettuce Is OK to Eat Again
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumers can eat some romaine lettuce if they check the label, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials.
The FDA previously stated that no romaine should be consumed following an outbreak of E. coli, but the outbreak has since been linked to California's Central Coast region.
Grocers and other retailers that offer produce are being asked to post the information by the cash register for romaine that does not come in packaging. Hydroponically grown romaine and romaine grown in greenhouses are not implicated in the outbreak, according to the report.
Romaine harvesting recently began shifting from the California Central Coast to winter growing areas, such as Arizona and Florida, that had not begun shipping when the outbreak was reported. The produce industry arranged the voluntary labeling system to avoid wasting freshly harvested romaine when the source of the outbreak was identified.
Consumers should begin seeing the labels as soon as this week.
The produce industry also committed to standardizing the labeling for romaine and to considering longer-term labeling options for other leafy greens, the FDA said.
This could help to limit the scope of future alerts and rebuild public trust following previous outbreaks, according to Robert Whitaker, chief science officer of the Produce Marketing Association.
"Romaine as a category has had a year that's been unfortunate," Whitaker said.
The produce industry is investigating potential environmental sources of this year's outbreaks in order to take safety measures, according to Jennifer McEntire of the United Fresh Produce Association.
Romaine lettuce has a shelf of approximately 21 days, which means contaminated romaine could still be for sale or in people's homes.