Not much E. coli on Romaine at retail

A total of 720 whole, romaine lettuce heads were purchased from retail locations in the Upper Midwest and assessed for coliform and Escherichia coli contamination and for the presence of E. coli O157:H7.

Romaine-Lettuce-PhotosDuring a 16-month period (August 2010 through December 2011), coliform and E. coli counts were enumerated on Petrifilm, and the presence of E. coli O157:H7 and the virulence gene eae was evaluated by real-time PCR (qPCR). Over half (400 of 720) of the lettuce samples were processed with an immunomagnetic separation step before the qPCR assay. All retail lettuce samples were negative for E. coli O157:H7 when tested with the R.A.P.I.D. LT qPCR targeting a region of the O-antigen, and only two (0.28%) were positive for the eae gene when tested with LightCycler qPCR.

On Petrifilm, coliform counts of most lettuce samples (96.4%) were between <101 and 103 CFU/g, and E. coli counts for nearly all lettuce samples (98.2%) were <101 CFU/g. No seasonal trend in coliform and E. coli counts was observed throughout the examination period nor was a difference in coliform counts observed between packaged and nonpackaged lettuce heads.

These results contribute to the limited recorded data and understanding of microbial contamination of whole romaine lettuce heads purchased from retail locations, specifically revealing the absence of E. coli O157:H7 and low levels of contamination with coliforms and other E. coli strains.

 Occurrence of coliform and Escherichia coli contamination and absence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on romaine lettuce from retail stores in the Upper Midwest

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 9, September 2015, pp. 1624-1769

Greve, Josephine D.; Zietlow, Mark S.; Miller, Kevin M.; Ellingson, Jay L. E.

4 sick; another E. coli outbreak in New Brunswick

Two months after an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that sickened up to 24 people was linked to Romaine lettuce served at a Jungle Jim’s restaurant in Miramichi, New Brunswick, another outbreak has sent two Fredericton teenagers to hospital and sickened at least another two people.

CBC reports Micaella Boer (right) and one of her young male friends are two of the four confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 in the city, according to Micaella’s mother, Victoria Boer.

"We absolutely have no idea" where it came from, said Victoria Boer. Health officials have been going through Micaella’s bank statements to try to figure out where she had been eating in the days leading up to her illness, she said.

Micaella is in quite a bit of pain and has been crying a lot, said Boer.

"There’s a lot of swelling, facial swelling. Her eyes are swollen, her feet are swollen, her belly’s swollen. So she’s just really having a rough time with that," she said.

"We just feel sick for her … just to watch your child in so much pain and she can’t move," said Boer. "And hearing the percentages and seeing her have blood transfusions — it’s a rough thing to go through as a parent."

Are the outbreaks linked? Don’t know. But Health Canada did reissue its woefully inaccurate safe handling of produce advice today, which usually means there’s an outbreak.

60 sick with E. coli O157 in 10 states: it was Romaine lettuce (grown in California?) served at Schnucks salad bars by Mr. Green

A day after Missouri health types announced the source of the Schnucks-salad-bar-related E. coli O157 outbreak may never be found, the feds announced they found a source.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported today that as of Dec. 4, 2011, 60 persons infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli serotype O157:H7 had been reported from 10 states.

Collaborative investigative efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate that romaine lettuce is the likely source of illnesses in this outbreak, and contamination likely occurred before the product reached retail stores.

CDC called Schnucks Chain A, and the farm the lettuce was traced to Farm A, without saying in what state the lettuce originated. But one of the Missouri health types did, saying a grower in California was suspected of being connected but records were “insufficient to complete the picture.”

The public reporting of this outbreak reeks of the Leafy Greens Cone of Silence – that the most noticeable achievement since the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement was created in the wake of the 2006 E. coli O157-in-spinach mess is the containment cone of silence that has descended upon outbreaks involving leafy greens.

Things didn’t sound quite right back on Oct. 28, 2011, when St. Louis County health officials first publicly confirmed that the source of the E. coli O157 strain that had sickened 23 people was foodborne, but that the investigation was ongoing. Though retailers have not been asked to pull any food, Schnucks voluntarily replaced or removed some produce in salad bars and shelves, beginning Oct. 26, 2011.

"Once we heard that the health department had declared an outbreak, we took some proactive steps with our food safety team to switch products out that recent history told us could be potential sources," said Schnucks spokeswoman Lori Willis.

A Schnucks store, Culinaria in downtown St. Louis, put a sign up on empty shelves that read in part, "Due to a voluntary recall on pre-packed lettuce, we will not be able to produce these pre-made salads. Be assured quality is our main concern. All of the lettuce on the salad bar is fresh and not involved with the recall."

As a retailer, Schnucks drew my attention earlier this year when it announced it was expanding its so-called Peace of Mind initiative from pricing to quality assurance with a new website,, that emphasizes the chain’s dedication to quality and food safety. Unfortunately, quality and safety are seemingly used interchangeably on the website when they are actually two different concepts.

A table of leafy green related outbreaks is available at

I’m not feeling peace of mind.

More from the CDC report:

As of December 4, 2011, 60 persons infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from10 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Arizona (1), Arkansas (2), Georgia (1), Illinois (9), Indiana (2), Kansas (3), Kentucky (1), Minnesota (3), Missouri (37), and Nebraska (1).

Among persons for whom information is available, illnesses began from October 10, 2011 to November 4, 2011. Ill persons ranged in age from 1 to 94 years, with a median age of 29 years old. Sixty-three percent were female. Among the 45 ill persons with available information, 30 (67%) were hospitalized, and 2 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). No deaths have been reported.

Collaborative investigative efforts of state, local, and federal public health agencies indicate that romaine lettuce sold primarily at several locations of a single grocery store chain (Chain A) was the likely source of illnesses in this outbreak. Contamination likely occurred before the product reached grocery store Chain A locations.

Ill persons reported purchasing salads from salad bars at grocery store Chain A between October 5 and October 24, 2011. A total of 9 locations of grocery store Chain A were identified where more than one ill person reported purchasing a salad from the salad bar in the week before becoming ill. This included 2 separate locations where 4 ill persons reported purchasing a salad at each location. For locations where more than one ill person reported purchasing a salad from the salad bar and the date of purchase was known, dates of purchase were all within 4 days of other ill persons purchasing a salad at that same location. Chain A fully cooperated with the investigation and voluntarily removed suspected food items from the salad bar on October 26, 2011, out of an abundance of caution. Romaine lettuce served on salad bars at all locations of grocery store Chain A had come from a single lettuce processing facility via a single distributor. This indicates that contamination of romaine lettuce likely occurred before the product reached grocery store Chain A locations.

The FDA and several state agencies conducted traceback investigations for romaine lettuce to try to identify the source of contamination. Traceback investigations focused on ill persons who had eaten at salad bars at several locations of grocery store Chain A and ill persons at university campuses in Minnesota (1 ill person) and Missouri (2 ill persons). Traceback analysis determined that a single common lot of romaine lettuce harvested from Farm A was used to supply the grocery store Chain A locations as well as the university campus in Minnesota during the time of the illnesses. This lot was also provided to a distributor that supplied lettuce to the university campus in Missouri, but records were not sufficient to determine if this lot was sent to this university campus. Preliminary findings of investigation at Farm A did not identify the source of the contamination. Farm A was no longer in production during the time of the investigation.

Sewing needle found in lettuce in Toronto

A two−inch sewing needle was found pierced into the spine of lettuce in a Toronto grocery store, specifically Andy Boy Romaine lettuce hearts.

The Toronto Police Service advises the public to use caution and check any pre−packaged lettuce for foreign objects.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416−808−4100, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416−222−TIPS (8477), online at , text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637), or Leave A Tip on Facebook.

E. coli in lettuce: Spongebob containment dome silencing public communications

New developments in the Freshway Foods romaine lettuce E. coli O145 outbreak:

1. Why the corporate finance dude shouldn’t be the public spokesthingy.

Freshway Foods recalled romaine lettuce products sold for food service outlets, wholesale, and in-store retail salad bars and delis last week after links with over 50 sick people in Ohio, Michigan and New York were established.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that multiple lines of evidence implicated shredded romaine lettuce from one processing facility as a source of infections in a multistate outbreak to which this recall may be related.

“The evidence includes preliminary results of product traceback investigations that indicate:
• the shredded romaine lettuce consumed by ill persons in three states originated from one processing facility;
• preliminary results of a case-control study in one state that found a statistically significant association between E. coli O145 infection;
• ingestion of lettuce from the same processing facility; and,
• recovery of E. coli O145 from an unopened package of shredded romaine lettuce from the same processing facility that was obtained from a food service entity associated with the outbreak.”

To which Freshway Foods vp of finance Devon Beer told The Packer,

“It’s really a precautionary step.”

No. It’s an outbreak and a public health step. At what point did FDA abandon epidemiology and require positive test results in an unopened package? How long were people eating potentially contaminated romaine lettuce at salad bars while regulators assembled sufficient evidence? What is the FDA policy on going public? (It doesn’t exist, at least not in any public form.) The six confirmed and suspected cases amongst students in New York’s Wappinger Central School District who came down with E. coli in April may want to know. And the lettuce they were served in the school cafeteria tested positive.

2. The suspect lettuce was grown in Yuma, Arizona

It was announced Friday that federal investigators were looking at a farm in Yuma, Ariz., as a possible source of the suspect romaine lettuce.

3. Look for pathogens and they will be found

In the wake of the E. coli O145 outbreak in romaine lettuce, a laboratory in Ohio started testing bags of romaine and found another E. coli which lead to a very private recall on Friday.

Misti Crane of the Columbus Dispatch reported this morning that the E. coli positive (strain not identified – dp) led a California company to recall about 1,000 cartons of produce that went to two customers who then processed the lettuce before sending it on to food-service establishments.

Amy Philpott, spokeswoman for Andrew Smith Co. in Spreckels, Calif., said none of the lettuce was sold in grocery stores and that only two food processors bought the cartons.

She said she didn’t know the names of those customers and did not know whether Freshway Foods in Sidney, Ohio, was one of them.

Ohio Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Kaleigh Frazier said the test was on an unopened bag of Freshway romaine shredded lettuce with a sell-by date of May 10, and her department is sending the sample on to federal officials for further testing.

Andrew Smith issued the recall privately on May 7 for lettuce that was shipped in mid-April, she said.

4. Our stuff is safe

As with the spinach outbreak of 2006, other regions are quick to proclaim the safety of their products, even in the absence of any data.

New Jersey State Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher said Friday that fresh romaine lettuce from New Jersey is safe.

"It certainly is an unfortunate coincidence of timing that this recall is occurring just as our farmers’ fresh romaine is coming into the market, but there is no connection between the two."

OK, but why not use the opportunity to explain the food safety steps taken by NJ lettuce growers to ensure microbiologically safe food, rather than saying we have a task force.

5. Blame consumers

Bob LaMendola of the Florida Sun Sentinel writes the E. coli is deadly but preventable by keeping raw meat separate from other foods, cooking meat to 165F, washing produce and hands vigorously.

This has nothing to do with romaine lettuce at salad bars.

After the 2006 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to California spinach, the 29th outbreak linked to leafy greens and after years of warning from FDA, California growers formed the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, which is supposed to have food safety performance standards. Yet the most noticeable achievement since the Agreement has been the containment cone of silence that has descended upon outbreaks involving leafy greens, and an apparent shift in FDA policy that sets epidemiology aside and requires positive samples in unopened product – a ridiculous standard since no one routinely tests for other Shiga-toxin producing E. coli like O145.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
BP’s Undersea Dome
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News

Romaine lettuce linked to E. coli O145 outbreak; over 50 people sick; where was lettuce grown?

Romaine lettuce appears to be the vehicle for E. coli O145 which has sickened over 50 people, primarily at university campuses in Michigan, Ohio and New York.

Cross-contamination was unlikely in this scenario because students in different states got sick at the same time, and investigators said early on that beef was an unlikely vehicle.

Freshway Foods of Sidney, Ohio, just announced it is voluntarily recalling products containing romaine lettuce with a use by date of May 12 or earlier because they have the potential to be contaminated with Escherichia coli O145 bacteria. The products were sold under the Freshway brand and Imperial Sysco brand. The company is working with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inform consumers of this recall.
This recall includes romaine lettuce products sold by Freshway Foods for food service outlets, wholesale, and in-store retail salad bars and delis; no other products are involved. Freshway Foods does not produce bulk, prepackaged romaine or bagged salad mixes containing romaine for sale in supermarkets.

The recalled romaine lettuce products were sold to wholesalers and food service outlets in the following states east of the Mississippi river: Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The recalled romaine products were also sold for distribution to in-store salad bars and delis for Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Markets, and Marsh stores in the states listed.

(Note, as Amy pointed out, I’m not sure what genius wrote this press release, but Kansas is west of the Mississippi river, not east. Does that mean Dillions in Manhattan, Kansas, owned by Kroger, should be cleaning out its salad bar?)

The recall comes after FDA informed Freshway Foods the afternoon of Wednesday, May 5 that a previously unopened product sample in a New York state laboratory tested positive for the bacteria. Freshway Foods traced the entire lot of romaine products and is advising customers to cease use and distribution of it immediately. This recall may be linked to an outbreak investigation in New York, Michigan, and Ohio.

Now, where was the romaine lettuce grown?