CDC Identifies Source of E. Coli Outbreak



Romaine lettuce sold at an area grocery chain and sourced from a specific farm was the source of the E. coli outbreak that sickened dozens in Missouri and several other states earlier this fall, according to a report published yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, which you can read in its entirety online, mentions neither the grocery store chain nor the farm by name. However, the details in the report make the identity of the grocery store chain, at least, fairly obvious.

Ill persons reported purchasing salads from salad bars at grocery store Chain A between October 5 and October 24, 2011. A total of 9 locations of grocery store Chain A were identified where more than one ill person reported purchasing a salad from the salad bar in the week before becoming ill. ...Chain A fully cooperated with the investigation and voluntarily removed suspected food items from the salad bar on October 26, 2011, out of an abundance of caution.
As was widely reported in St. Louis, around that time Schnucks removed items from its salad bar after became apparent that it was the common link among victims.

The contamination, however, occurred before the romaine lettuce reached Schnucks:

Traceback analysis determined that a single common lot of romaine lettuce harvested from Farm A was used to supply the grocery store Chain A locations as well as the university campus in Minnesota during the time of the illnesses. This lot was also provided to a distributor that supplied lettuce to the university campus in Missouri, but records were not sufficient to determine if this lot was sent to this university campus. Preliminary findings of investigation at Farm A did not identify the source of the contamination. Farm A was no longer in production during the time of the investigation.
I reached out to the CDC to ask whether it is the agency's policy not to identify the sources of an outbreak such as this in its report, or whether there was something specific about this case that caused the report not to identify the grocery store and the farm by name. I'll let you know what I learn.

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