FDA issues lettuce alert after US E. coli outbreak

POTENTIALLY DEADLY::As there is no embargo on romaine lettuce, firms should improve their food control strategies, the administration said

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Nov 23, 2018 - Page 3

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday issued a yellow alert for romaine lettuce, after the US reported an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections, and warned that people should be aware of the potential risk of consuming the vegetable.

Following the example of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warned US consumers on Tuesday not to eat romaine lettuce, the FDA issued a yellow alert, meaning “suspicious, but without immediate danger.”

No cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection have been recorded in Taiwan in the past three years, the FDA said.

People should be more careful when consuming the vegetable and businesses should improve their food control systems, FDA Food Safety Division head Pan Chih-kuan (潘志寬) said, adding that 4,921 tonnes, or 98 percent, of Taiwan’s imported romaine lettuce came from the US this year.

There is no ban on importing or selling romaine lettuce and Taiwan’s customs inspections mainly focus on pesticide residue or heavy-metal content, Pan said.

E. coli can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps and occasionally kidney failure, said Yang Chen-chang (楊振昌), director of the Division of Clinical Toxicology and Occupational Medicine at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly form of the food-borne disease, National Taiwan University Hospital pediatrician Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) said, adding that there have been outbreaks in Germany and Japan in the past.