FDA clears Romaine sales from non-affected regions
The recent moratorium on Romaine lettuce sales was set to be eased Nov. 26 by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which is in the process of issuing new guidance for the industry following an outbreak of E. coli that has been attributed to Romaine lettuce.
In a Nov. 26 conference call, FDA said it would allow shipments and sales of Romaine lettuce harvested from areas outside the central coast growing regions of Central and Northern California. The permitted areas include the Imperial Valley and other desert growing regions in California, as well as Yuma, AZ, Florida and Mexico. Hydroponic and greenhouse-grown Romaine from any region also may be sold.
To be compliant with the new guidance, packages of Romaine lettuce will need to include information about the date of harvest and the growing region, and retailers must include signage to assure customers that the lettuce was sourced from areas outside the recall zones.
With regard to Romaine used in foodservice applications, the restaurant or other establishment is considered the end-user and must verify the product was sourced from approved areas but need not include signage, according to FDA.
To date, there have been 43 confirmed illnesses in 12 states, with 16 people hospitalized and no deaths, according to FDA. Twenty-five of those experiencing symptoms were interviewed, and 22 reported having eaten Romaine lettuce in the days leading up to the onset of their illness.
FDA worked with industry over the long Thanksgiving weekend to devise this latest guidance and the plan to include harvest dates and sources on the packaging. FDA plans to increase its communications efforts on this matter and scheduled a call the afternoon of Nov. 26 with state departments of agriculture to advise of the new guidance. It also will work with industry on educating the general public about the updated guidance.