At least 58 people have been sickened, and two — one in California and one in Canada — have died because they contracted E. coli O157:H7 in November and December, believed to be related to eating romaine lettuce or other leafy greens. In the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has linked at least 17 reports of illness in 13 states to the outbreak.
That has many people passing on Caesar's salad. But UC Cooperative Extension specialist Trevor Suslow said it is unlikely that romaine now at grocery stores is contaminated, reported Bob Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee.
"It's not going to last that long, it's gone," Suslow said.
The CDC is conducting whole genome sequencing on samples of bacteria making people sick in the U.S. and Canada to determine whether they are related. Preliminary results show the type of E. coli is closely related genetically, the CDC reported.
"We've got a long way to go still to make the level of compliance more uniform, better, cheaper, and some of it is simply lack of science and lack of knowledge about the specific link between practices, pathogen biology, exposure," Suslow said.
He believes the food at Chipotle is not necessarily safer now that changes have been made at the popular restaurants.
"I know from personal contact that many similar fast-casual and fast-food restaurants are reassessing their internal operations and their supply chain management," Suslow said. "I guess we'll wait and see how their consumer base responds if they implement the practices of trying to do treatments that change the fresh nature of their components that might not normally be cooked."
- Author: Brenda Dawson
Trevor Suslow, UC Cooperative Extension food safety specialist at Davis, was told by the farm owner that they believed the postharvest system used in conjunction with the outbreak was an improvement over their previous methods — though Suslow disagrees. He acknowledges, however, that the FDA does not make a definitive statement in its growing guidelines on the safest method of cleaning, cooling or packing cantaloupe.
Agricultural program helps keep youth out of gangs
An Associated Press article by Gosia Wozniacka profiles volunteer work by Manuel Jimenez, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Tulare County. The article was published by news outlets such as the Fresno Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, ABC News, Fox News, CBS News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and others.
He and wife Olga teach life skills and farming techniques to youth on a 14-acre garden in Woodlake, Calif.
"We want to grow kids in our gardens, because we've seen what violence, drugs and alcohol can do," Jimenez told the reporter.
The article also includes comments from youth volunteers in the program, past and present.
"Everything Manuel did was interesting to me," said Walter Martinez, who is now a UC Cooperative Extension field assistant and also served as a volunteer at the garden through middle and high school.
The reported foodborne illness outbreak in Ohio, Michigan and New York this week differs from other recent leafy green contamination episodes in the type of E. coli that was identified in the lettuce, according to an article published today in Western Farm Press.
Trevor Suslow, a UC Davis Cooperative Extension food safety specialist, told reporter Cary Blake that E. coli 0157:H7 is the classic type of E. coli that can cause serious illness and potential death.
“E. coli 0145 is well recognized as a type that can cause these kinds of clinical symptoms and illness; however it is not commonly associated with food,” Suslow was quoted. “The 0145 and 0157:H7 strains are among the most aggressive and more virulent types of E. coli.”The Western Farm Press article said the FDA is investigating a farm in Yuma, Ariz., as part of its traceback investigation into the source of the E. coli 0145 outbreak in romaine lettuce that is believed to have made 19 people ill.
Kurt Nolte, director of University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Yuma County, said the lettuce in question was shipped in bulk from the desert to a processing plant in another state. A New York state public health laboratory in Albany confirmed E. coli 0145 in an unopened bag of Freshway Foods shredded romaine lettuce.
Freshway Foods, a processor in Sidney, Ohio, voluntarily recalled products containing romaine lettuce with a use-by date of May 12 or earlier, the article said. The products were sold under the Freshway and Imperial Sysco brands in 23 states.
UC Davis Cooperative Extension specialist Trevor Suslow wrote an opinion piece for Food Safety News saying a recent Consumers Union study - which questioned the safety of prewashed salad greens - has caused a flurry of concern and confusion.An article in the March 2010 issue of Consumer Reports magazine said its study of packaged leafy greens found nearly 40 percent of samples contained bacteria that are common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination, according to a news release distributed on PR Newswire.
Suslow wrote that he thinks it is "grossly unfair" to raise fears beyond what is supported by science and everyday shared experiences with salad greens.
"What I rely on for my personal confidence in regularly consuming lettuces, spring mix, and spinach salads is that there are billions and billions of servings of these items consumed every year in the U.S. alone and the predominant experience we have is of safe consumption," Suslow wrote.
The CR news release said FDA should increase the specificity of its guidance and regulations for packaged leafy greens. In the meantime, the writers suggested consumers buy packages as long as possible before their use-by date and wash the greens at home, even if the packages say "prewashed" or "triplewashed."
Suslow agrees customers should look for use-by dates on packaged leafy greens. He goes further to suggest consumers note that packages in grocery stores are refrigerated vertical in a row, not laid one on top of the other in stacks.
Suslow said he checks the temperature of the greens' display case with his hand and confirms that the bags are very cool to the touch. (Perhaps one day there will be a cell phone ap for that, Suslow suggests.)
But he doesn't recommend consumers wash packaged salads at home.
"I do not support or believe that re-washing packaged salads should be a recommendation for the home consumer," Suslow wrote. "A large and diverse panel of experts published a comprehensive article in 2007 detailing the scientific evidence for the lack of benefit and the greater risk of cross-contamination in the home."