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Let Us Not Eat Lettuce

Lettuce-05-13-10.jpgThe new romaine lettuce recall is the latest in a series of dangerous fruits and vegetables. The impact of clean agricultural practices first really hit public consciousness in 2006 with the massive E.Coli outbreak in Dole spinach. And then in 2008 with the tomato recall. And then in 2009 with the peanut butter recall.
Now, the FDA is telling us that Freshway Food’s bagged romaine lettuce, potentially with sell-by (not use by) dates of May 9 and May 10, can contain E. coli O145, which is harmful. The outbreak has likely harmed at least 19 people in Michigan, Ohio, and New York. The FDA believes a farm in Yuma Arizona may be the source. Injuries include hospitalizations and hemolytic uremic syndrome (a disease that destroys red blood cells and may be indicated by bloody diarrhea and acute kidney failure). Adults typically recover quickly, but it can be life-threatening to children, the elderly, and people with impaired immune systems.

The lettuce at issue was sold to wholesalers, food service outlets, and some stores with salad bars or delis, and may include pre-packaged salads from Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Markets, and Marsh stores. Other states where the salad was sold include Alabama, Connecticut, the 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. Importantly, Freshway Foods does not produce prepackaged salads for supermarket sales.

I rarely post on agricultural recalls, but it is such a big trend lately, that it seems important to at least get the information out there. As an aside, any product lawyer who has faced the uphill battle of specific product identification in medical devices or drug cases knows how difficult it can be to discover specific brands or manufacturers of products used in hospitals. By comparison, agricultural detection is a fine-tuned science. DNA from the E.coli can be checked. The food industry typically has terrific identification protocols that allow us to track a specific box of lettuce used at a restaurant to a state, a farm, and even an area on the farm, not to mention the time of day it was picked.
Eat healthy.