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CDC Issues Romaine Lettuce E. coli Warning

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control Tuesday issued a  health warning that all romaine lettuce was unsafe to eat due to a new outreak of E. coli. 

The CDC health warning told consumers not to eat romaine of any kind and to throw out any at home.  The warning told restaurants and grocers not to serve or sell any type of romain because of an outbreak that's sickened 32 people in 11 states.

John Boelts is First Vice President for the Arizona Farm Bureau.  He says the new outbreak has been tracked by the CDC since August, calling it "unfortunate" that the time frame of harvesting wasn't taken into account.  Because he says the Yuma grown romaine harvest did not even begin until the first week of November.

John Boelts...Out of an abundance of caution, CDC, FDA and industry have all decided to purge all the product and get to the bottom of this.  I don't think it was the best way to handle it, but it is the way they're choosing to handle it right now, and we'll see where it goes.

Since all romaine comes under the CDC health warning, the romaine that's been harvested here in the Yuma growing area cannot be taken to market.

John Boelts...That means it gets destroyed, taken to a landfill or returned to the field where it was harvested and dumped in the field.  Which is terrible, there's nothing wrong with the product coming out of Yuma right now.  It should be harvested and sold.

Boelts says romaine lettuce is about 50% of the acreage of leafy greens planted in Yuma's winter growing season, and about a quarter to a third of the total winter fresh produce crop.  He says the warning means tens of thousands of boxes of romaine will have to be destroyed.  He hopes the investigation quickly finds the cause of the outbreak, both for the people sickened, and for the growers who depend on romaine for their livelihood.