Feds won't say where romaine came from in 2011 E. coli outbreak
In its final report on an E. coli outbreak that hit nine states in the fall of 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continued to decline to name the grower and distributors involved.
The Packer, a trade publication of the fruit and vegetable industry, said the CDC report, made public March 23, repeated previous conclusions that the outbreak was because of tainted romaine lettuce. It updated the number of sick people, decreasing the number to 58. In its Dec. 7 report the CDC said 60 people had been sickened. No deaths were linked to the outbreak, but several people were hospitalized.
From The Packer:
Officials with the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration previously said the agencies would not name the grocery retailer, foodservice processors/distributors or grower because investigations had not proven where the contamination had occurred.
In December, CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell said the agency leaves such announcements to the regulatory agencies such as FDA.
At that time, FDA policy analyst and press officer Sebastian Cianci said the farm where the romaine was grown was “no longer in production when the FDA went to conduct an investigation. Preliminary findings at the farm did not identify the source of contamination. FDA did sample and test various brands of romaine lettuce but did not find the outbreak strain.”
According to the FDA and CDC, traceback investigations and patient interviews implicated the romaine.
“Traceback analysis determined that a single lot of romaine lettuce harvested from one farm was used to supply the grocery store chain locations as well as university campuses in Minnesota and Missouri where illnesses were also reported,” Cianci said in December.
“We know the farm from which the lettuce was harvested but have not named it because we do not know whether or not it was the source of contamination, and we don’t want to suggest that we are implicating a specific member in the supply chain when in fact we are still trying to determine where in the supply chain the contamination occurred.”
Civil lawsuits filed against the Schnucks grocery chain in St. Louis on the behalf of victims by the Seattle law firm Marler Clark LLC, named Vaughn Foods Inc., Moore, Okla., as a supplier of the romaine. In December, Mark Vaughn, president of Vaughn Foods, confirmed to The Packer that the company does supply fresh-cut produce to Schnucks but declined further comment because of the pending litigation.