Romaine lettuce E. coli outbreaks over, product safe to eat again, FDA says

The outbreaks of E. coli-tainted romaine lettuce appears to be over, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agencies announced Wednesday that the vegetable should be safe to eat after issuing an advisory in late November about three separate E. coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce from a grower in Salinas, California.

Officials noted that while the outbreaks are over, an investigation continues because a root cause has not been found.

On Dec. 12, public health officials and agency investigators narrowed down that the strains of E. coli came from “at least 10 fields” in Salinas.

Investigators from federal and state agencies visited several of those fields and tested samples from water, soil and compost. The samples came back negative for the E. coli strain that sickened people, but another strain of E. coli was found in a soil sample taken near a run-off spot.

“This could be an important clue that will be further examined as our investigation continues. However, this clue does not explain the illnesses seen in these outbreaks,” the FDA said in a statement.

One outbreak caused 167 people to fall ill in 27 states, while one linked to tainted lettuce in Fresh Express salad kits caused 10 people in five states to get sick.

A third outbreak in Washington state made 11 people ill.

The last reported illness happened on Dec. 21, according to the FDA.

The agency said in a statement that it appeared the advisory to stay away from romaine lettuce from the Salinas grower “played an important role in preventing illnesses and containing the outbreak.”

This story was reported from Los Angeles.