FDA Announces Investigation of Two E. coli Outbreaks Which May Connect with Previous Outbreaks in 2018 and 2019
Just yesterday, October 28, 2020, the FDA announced the beginning of an involved investigation aimed at discovering the origin of two outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 (STEC) which have just arisen. In a press release yesterday, Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response commented:
“The FDA, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our state and local partners, are working to investigate two outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 (STEC) illnesses. We do not know what food is causing people to get sick or whether it involves an FDA-regulated food product. However, we have seen similar recurring, emerging or persistent strains of E. coli in recent outbreaks. E. coli O157:H7 can contaminate many foods, and we cannot assume that the current outbreaks are linked to historically associated foods like romaine and other leafy greens. There is no information currently to indicate that people should avoid any specific food.¨
As Yiannas alluded to, there is epidemiological support for the possibility that these newly-emerged E. coli outbreaks are related to or even a continuation of two previous E. coli outbreaks; the 2018 Yuma Romaine Lettuce E. coli Outbreak and the November 2019 Romaine Lettuce, Salinas, California Outbreak.The outbreak which potentially genetically corresponds with the 2019 Romaine Lettuce E. coli Outbreak, has a total of 23 reported cases of illness and 0 deaths, to date. The second outbreak, which may be connect with the 2018 Romaine Lettuce E. coli Outbreak, has a total of 21 cases of illness and 1 death attributed to it, thus far.
Though the investigation is under the cooperative direction of the FDA, CDC, and other state and local health authorities, it is still in its early stages. Consequently, there is little information available regarding its origin and any potential food carriers. Yiannas says that the FDA is currently working on developing a new resource for its website to better provide “early updates on new and active investigations”, as a part of the FDA’s “continued commitment to transparency and early communication”.
As the investigation begins, health officials urge consumers to be aware of personal hygiene, proper food preparation and cooking standards during this time. For more information regarding the development of this investigation, visit the FDA’s website.