This post was updated 12/17/18. E. coli in the sediment of a local irrigation reservoir used by Adam Bros. Farm in Santa Barbara County, California, matches the strain linked to the 15-state romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said yesterday. The farm is the first entity to be named in connection with the outbreak that has sickened 59 people, but, the agency cautioned, it likely will not be the last.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. and FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas said in a statement that the finding does not fully explain the common source of the contamination and romaine lettuce from other farms will likely be implicated in the future. The FDA’s traceback investigation has identified five restaurants in four states that were supplied by 11 distributors, nine growers, and eight farms that are all potential sources of contaminated romaine lettuce.
The agency said its goal is to find the cause of the contamination, identify existing risks to consumers and resolve potential hazards.
Health officials used genetic testing on stool samples collected from people sickened to find the “fingerprint” of the E. coli strain responsible for this outbreak. And for weeks they have been searching for a match. Teams of state and federal investigators have collected hundreds of samples from farms and lettuce-cooling facilities. The majority of these samples, which include water, soil and swabs from the surfaces of equipment, have tested negative for the outbreak strain, according to the FDA.
Now that they have discovered a match from the irrigation reservoir, the FDA will send investigators back to the farm. Working in collaboration, they hope to discover how the contamination occurred and what corrective actions should be done before the next growing season.
Adam Bros E. coli Lettuce Recall
Adams Bros. has not shipped any romaine lettuce since Nov. 20 and committed to issuing a recall for products that may have come into contact with the implicated reservoir. On December 13, 2018, the farm issued a recall for red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce and cauliflower harvested on November 27 through 30, 2018. None of these products tested positive for E. coli, the company said.
The cauliflower was distributed to wholesalers in AZ, CA, IL, LA, MD, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA. Tijuana, Mexico, and Canada. The red and green leaf lettuce was distributed to wholesalers in CA, CO, OR, TX, PA, WA, and Canada. The red leaf lettuce was distributed to a wholesaler in MN, and Tijuana, Mexico.
The recall prompted a sub-recall from Spokane Produce for sandwiches.
Romaine E. coli Outbreak Grows
Since the last update on December 6, 2018, seven more people have been included. Of the 59 people in 15 states who are now sick, 23 have been hospitalized including two people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a form of kidney failure. Canadian health officials are also reporting illnesses associated with this outbreak.
By state, the case count is as follows: CA (12), CT (1), DC (1), FL (1), IL (2), LA (1), MA (1), MD (1), MI (7), NH (6), NJ (12), NY (7), OH (1), PA (4), RI (1) and WI (1).