Five dead, nearly 200 sick in <i>E. coli</i> outbreak from lettuce

An <i>Escherichia coli</i> outbreak has taken the lives of 5 people and left 200 individuals from nearly three dozen states sickened. Although investigators have determined that <i>E.

An <i>Escherichia coli</i> outbreak has taken the lives of 5 people and left 200 individuals from nearly three dozen states sickened. Although investigators have determined that <i>E. coli</i> came from contaminated romaine lettuce grown in Arizona's Yuma region, FDA has not been able to link the outbreak to one farm, processor, or distributor, said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Stephen Ostroff, the deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. Additionally, now that the tainted vegetables are off the shelves and the growing season is over, FDA may never crack the case, frustrating consumer advocates who have called on the agency to issue rules that would speed up future investigations of foodborne illnesses. Because most of the illnesses came from prepackaged vegetables that have been passed on from suppliers to distributors to processing facilities where they were chopped and bagged, finding out where they were grown is difficult. "It's a labor-intensive task," said Gottlieb and Ostroff in a joint statement. "It requires collecting and evaluating thousands of records; and trying to accurately reproduce how the contaminated lettuce moved through the food supply chain to grocery stores, restaurants, and other locations where it was sold or served to the consumers who became ill." This <i>E coli</i> outbreak is the worst one since 2006, when 205 people became ill and five died from <i>E. coli</i> linked to baby spinach.