Every week, it seems like there is yet another food recall. Everything from E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and even Hepatitis A has been found in our groceries. Both the CDC and the FDA are involved in investigating and reporting outbreaks and recalls. So, you'd think the public would be notified as soon as there was an outbreak.
As it turns out, that isn't always the case.
The public was notified after the fact.
Yesterday evening, while most people were either taking their kids out trick or treating or handing out candy at the door, the FDA made an announcement. We apparently had a multi-state outbreak of E. coli that made at least 23 people very sick. The outbreak lasted for an 8-week period from July 12 to September 8, 2019.
"Today, we are sharing news of a recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that was likely associated with romaine lettuce. We do not believe there is a current or ongoing risk to the public and we are not recommending the public avoid consuming romaine lettuce," said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas. "However, our investigation, along with previous outbreaks linked to romaine, reinforces the recommendations that we have made to the leafy green industry: producers must continue to review their practices and improve traceability to enhance food safety. We remain committed to improving the safety of leafy greens and know that all levels of government and the supply chain from farm to retail must continue to work together to keep consumers safe."
Essentially, the FDA is saying:
"Hey, we had an E. coli outbreak. It went on for 8 solid weeks before we investigated. Then took another 6 weeks to investigate before deciding to inform the public. We're not exactly sure, but we think it might have come from romaine lettuce. But, we couldn't find any proof of that.
But, hey, the CDC didn't let us know until Sept 17th. So, blame them. Ignore the following 6 weeks we knew and said nothing. We're also going to remind leafy green producers to be more careful because it looks like we're doing something."
While I can't fault the FDA for not acting until the agency was notified, I have to ask why it took an additional 6 weeks to make an announcement? After digging around through the CDC's and FDA's websites, I still don't have a satisfactory answer.
Rather than speculate, all I'm going to say is that taking a total of 14 weeks since the start of an E. coli outbreak to notify the public is unacceptable.