FOOD SAFETY NEWS SCAN: E coli -lettuce link, saving produce testing

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Jul 17, 2012

US, Canadian E coli outbreak in spring linked to California lettuce
California-grown romaine lettuce is the probable source of an Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak that occurred in April and May in California, New Brunswick, and Quebec, eFoodAlert reported yesterday. At least 28 people have been confirmed ill in the outbreak, the story said. The 18 New Brunswick case-patients all ate at Jungle Jim's, a Miramichi restaurant, from Apr 23 to 26. Most of the nine California cases were linked to an unnamed restaurant in April. No information has been provided about the Quebec case or whether more than one person was infected there. Ronald Owens, public information officer with the California Department of Public Health, said investigators traced the contaminated lettuce to a single farm but could not pinpoint the original source of contamination. "The field had long since been harvested at the time of the investigation, and all lettuce from the implicated lots had long since been consumed or disposed," he said.
Jul 16 eFoodAlert post

USDA to preserve produce-testing program for now
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided to keep its little-known produce testing program going until the end of this year instead of shutting it down on Jul 31, following press coverage of the proposed shutdown, Food Safety News (FSN) reported today. FSN reported last week that ending the program, called the Microbiological Data Program, would reduce government testing of produce for Salmonella, Listeria, and pathogenic E coli by 80%. "While the Microbiological Data Program does not align with USDA's core mission, the department will continue its work with state partners using existing agreements to conduct sampling and testing through this program through the end of the year," a USDA spokesman told FSN. The Obama administration did not request funds for the $4.5 million program in its proposed 2013 budget, and Congress has not included it in appropriations bills. According to FSN, the program tests 16,000 to 18,000 produce samples annually. From 2009 to 2012, the program found Salmonella 100 times, E coli O157:H7 twice, and Listeria 8 times, the story said. The findings sparked 23 Salmonella recalls, 2 E coli O157:H7 recalls, and 5 Listeria recalls.
Jul 17 FSN story

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