Of the 25 states with Romaine lettuce E.coli illnesses that have been confirmed by the CDC, California has been hit the hardest.  It now has 24 confirmed E.coli illnesses, with the only other state to surpass the 20 – victim-maker being Pennsylvania – on the other side of the nation.  This distribution, with another 23 states in-between, is a perfect example of how the food industry is growing in scale, with national and international food growers distributing food across the nation and globe.  The lettuce that is contaminated appears to have originated in the Yuma, Arizona region.

So far, however, the FDA has announced only a single entity form the Yuma region, that being Harrison Farms, who sold Romaine lettuce contaminated with E.coli to a correctional facility in Alaska.  There has been surprisingly little information, to date, on other implicated farms or distributors.  This is likely to change, however, as there is a great deal of interest in knowing where and when the contamination with E.coli began – not only among a jittery public or the health agencies charged with protecting public health, but by retailers like Wal-Mart who are being sued over the illnesses caused by the E.coli tainted lettuce.  These Romaine Lettuce E.coli lawsuits are likely to continue to blame the retailers until the source becomes known. At that time, the suppliers may owe a duty to the retailers to indemnify them for the damages sought in the Romaine E.coli lawsuits on file and the many more that are anticipated.

The Need for Good Manufacturing Practices and HACCP Necessary at Every Step

This outbreak, which tragically has become deadly, should operate as a wake-up call in the Yuma, Arizona region where this outbreak originated.  The problem may be systemic, such as the lack of facilities for migratory workers to bathe, use toilets, and wash their hands, or it may be a situation where a sick employee was allowed to work in one of the processing or distribution centers.   In outbreaks like this, the precise break-down in the GMPs  and the effectiveness of a company’s HACCP are rarely identified.  Instead, investigators will identify current deviations and these companies will have to revisit the effectiveness of their policies guiding the growing, harvesting, and distribution of foods like Romaine Lettuce.

As the FDA identifies the particular growers in the Yuma Arizona region, their  GMPS and HACCP will be put under a microscope by food safety investigators. They will also become the subject of a great deal of discovery in the coming months as the victims of this outbreak pursue claims for damages in the Romaine E.coli Lawsuits they have filed- Romaine lettuce ecoli lawsuits have been filed against retailers so far, but will likely be modified to include the farms once the CDC and FDA have identified those.