The agency's announcement follows a stern warning issued two days before Thanksgiving, by the CDC, telling consumers nationwide not only to stop eating romaine lettuce, but also to scrub and sanitize drawers or shelves where it has been stored.
The FDA said there was no reason to believe that the romaine lettuce being grown in other large growing regions, including the California desert region of the Imperial Valley; the desert region of Arizona in and around Yuma; and Florida, would be contaminated.
"Based on further discussions with the leafy greens industry and with agricultural authorities, we have begun to narrow the location in which we believe the contaminated romaine in the current outbreak was grown", Gottlieb said.
The multi-state outbreak of E. coli infections has been traced to the Central Coast regions of California, according to a statement from Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
Now, the Malaysian Ministry of Health has issued a statement yesterday (26th November), confirming that Malaysia does import Romaine lettuce from the US and the ministry has been screening the imported lettuce using the "Stop, Test, and Release" protocol that was initiated on 23rd November.
"Romaine as a category has had a year that's been unfortunate", Whitaker said.
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At least 22 people in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick have been sickened in the outbreak. The bacteria can contaminate a wide variety of agricultural products through contact with feces from infected animals. Children under 5, adults older than 65 and people with weakened immune systems, such as people with chronic diseases, are more likely to develop severe illness, but even healthy children and adults can become seriously ill.
McEntire said the industry is considering multiple theories, including whether there is something about romaine that makes it more susceptible to contamination.
Federal investigators have found no connection between the current outbreak and the one that started this past spring. The strain in this one has the same genetic fingerprint as the one that caused illnesses late past year in the United States and Canada.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it is continuing its own investigation in conjunction with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Health Canada (HC) into the current outbreak of E. coli O157. That outbreak was declared over in January. Meanwhile, consumers are advised to check the label of the lettuce they intend to buy to determine the item's country of origin.
The E. coli outbreak was first identified October 8, and the onset of the last reported illness was October 31, according to the FDA.