U.S. health officials have traced a food poisoning outbreak from romaine lettuce to at least one farm in California, which voluntarily recalled red and green leaf lettuce as well as cauliflower because they may be contaminated with E. coli.
Adam Bros. Farms in Santa Barbara County said Thursday it was issuing the new recall, for the listed products harvested between Nov. 27 and Nov. 30, "out of an abundance of caution."
The Food and Drug Administration cautioned Thursday that other farms are likely involved in the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak and consumers should continue checking the label before purchasing the product.
The Food and Drug Administration said 59 people in 15 states have now been sickened by the tainted lettuce. That's seven more cases than previously reported, but regulators said they are fairly confident that the lettuce which first triggered the outbreak has been removed from the market. The FDA told consumers to avoid romaine lettuce just before Thanksgiving.
Officials said a water reservoir at Adam Bros. Farms in Santa Barbara County tested positive for the bacterial strain and the owners are cooperating with U.S. officials. Officials from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not determined how the water reservoir — which is used to irrigate lettuce — became contaminated.
Adam Bros. said in a statement that "sediment from a reservoir near where the
produce was grown tested positive for E. coli" but said that while harvested produce may have come into contact with filtered, treated water from the reservoir, none of that water tested positive for the bacteria.
The company said that there have been no illnesses reported in the recall of red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce and cauliflower. Those products were distributed across the country; find identifying product information here.
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A man who answered the phone at Adam Bros. Farms Thursday said he could not comment on the government announcement. According to the company's website, it only grows vegetables products, including broccoli, cauliflower, celery and various types of lettuce. Not all Adam Bros. products have been recalled, according to the statement.
E. coli can get into water and soil through multiple routes, including waste from domesticated animals or wild animals, fertilizer and other agricultural products.
The FDA's Dr. Stephen Ostroff said investigators have linked the tainted romaine lettuce to multiple distributors and processors, suggesting it must have come from several farms.
The government also narrowed the source of the outbreak to three California counties: Santa Barbara, Monterey and San Benito. That's down from six California counties under investigation when regulators began warning the public last month.
Regulators said people should only buy romaine lettuce with a label listing where and when it was harvested. Lettuce from outside the three California counties that was harvested after Nov. 23 should be safe to eat.
Romaine harvesting recently began shifting from California's Central Coast to winter growing areas, primarily Arizona, Florida, Mexico and California's Imperial Valley. Those winter regions weren't yet shipping when the illnesses began.
E. coli, the bacteria often associated with food poisoning, usually causes sickness two to eight days later, according to health authorities. Most people with the infection get diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Some cases can be life-threatening, causing kidney failure and seizures.