CDC Late on Romaine Reveal, Sources Weigh In
- by Kayla Webb
WASHINGTON, DC - After weeks of silence on the state of the E. coli outbreak, the CDC has finally announced the outbreak "appears to be over as of January 9, 2019"—an announcement that many from around our industry have deemed too late.
How can we remedy this broken process to ensure safety is the top priority and that timeliness and communication play a more significant role? A few experts and leaders from around the produce industry shared their varying thoughts with ANUK.
“This statement, a month after the months of consumer and CDC confusion, is another indication that we must fix the current system—not just to protect consumers but better protect the food supply itself,” said Todd Linsky, Principal and Owner of TLC Consulting. “I challenge the debate by proposing that we need to be driving costs into our food production and help the producers not only make a living, but have the ability to afford to create a system that provides safety. If we keep trying to dumb down our food we will continue to see our mistakes.”
The California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement's Marketing Communications Director April Ward added, "The California LGMA is pleased to see FDA and CDC’s updates on the romaine outbreak yesterday as it is important for the public to know that Romaine is safe to eat. The leafy greens farming community is committed to protecting consumers and we are all focused now on efforts to examine and update farming practices to make leafy greens safer."
According to its latest and, presumably, final report, the CDC cites 62 people across 16 states and the District of Columbia were infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli. No deaths were reported.
The CDC first announced the outbreak at the end of November, advising all to stay away from romaine. The organization then followed up on December 13th to reveal the source of the outbreak, again warning all not to buy, serve, sell, or eat romaine lettuce from California’s Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Barbara counties. But, after the December report, communication from the CDC ceased. Many organizations on the buy-, supply-, and consumer-side of produce, including PACA, Western Growers, food scientists, and even McDonald’s, stepped up to keep the lines of communication open, arguably filling in the gaps of the CDC’s own obligation.
Will the CDC learn from this outbreak and correct the process in the name of future safety? I, for one, would be grateful if the CDC would address the systemic issues that have come to light during this chain of events. We await the conversation that will address these recent complications and obstacles. CDC, what's next?
AndNowUKnow will continue to keep our finger to the pulse of the produce industry.