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March 18, 2019

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FDA Believes Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation May Be A Cause of Romaine Outbreak

  • On July 31 and August 1, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) participated in a meeting of the Leafy Greens Food Safety Task Force that was formed in response to the outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 associated with romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona that occurred earlier this year. During the meeting, FDA shared preliminary hypotheses about possible outbreak causes and the actions necessary to prevent a future occurrence. FDA has previously mentioned that samples of canal water in Yuma tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli, and that the contaminated water coming into contact with the produce was a viable explanation for the cause of the outbreak. FDA also discussed that the location of the canal is situated close to a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) and can hold in excess of 100,000 head of cattle at any one time, and that FDA traceback information showed a clustering of romaine lettuce farms nearby.

  • According to, the Task Force suggested tripling the industry-imposed 400-foot buffer zone to separate leafy greens growing fields from animal feedlots. Members of the California and Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement are accepting comments on the setback suggestion before making a final decision on required buffer zone size. This suggestion demonstrates the produce industry’s interest to have preventive measures in place before the next growing season.

  • On August 6, the FDA publicly released a statement about the CAFO hypothesis, and added that their experts are continuing to work on examining potential links between the CAFO, adjacent water, and geologic and others facts that may explain the contamination and its relationship to the outbreak. FDA will detail its findings in an environmental assessment report, though the exact release date of the report was not given.

  • As our readers may remember, we’ve previously discussed the outbreak, which was declared officially over on June 28. As a result of the outbreak, five people died and more than 200 others across 36 states were confirmed with infections.

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Keller and Heckman offers global food and drug services to its clients. Our comprehensive and extensive food and drug practice is one of the largest in the world. We promote, protect, and defend products made by the spectrum of industries regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Commission and Member States authorities in the European Union (EU) and similar authorities throughout the world. The products we help get to market include foods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, veterinary products, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. In addition...