FDA says California is likely the source
Super Value food stores across The Bahamas pulled all varieties of romaine lettuce from their shelves on Friday, following an E. coli outbreak in the United States.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Super Value President Rupert Roberts said while the outbreak has been sourced to California and the grocery franchise’s latest order of romaine lettuce came from Arizona, the decision to pull the produce was out of “an abundance of caution for our customers”.
“We have pulled, withdrawn from sale all romaine lettuce — lettuce leaves; lettuce hearts and mixed salad bags that contain romaine,” Roberts told Eyewitness News.
“Of course, we’ve left the bags of spinach and so on out there, so you can still make a salad.
“Yesterday, the price of regular lettuce doubled.
“The situation I feel, as advised by suppliers, is that there has been no problem with romaine coming out of Arizona. Our suppliers can track where a product came from; when it came; where it was shipped to and so on and so forth… but, we’ve pulled all product.”
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Friday that romaine lettuce contaminated with the E. coli likely came from California.
In a tweet, Gottlieb wrote, “The goal now is to withdraw the produce that’s at risk of being contaminated from the market, and then re-stock the market.”
The commissioner noted that the FDA will seek to help unaffected growers get back into production, saying romaine lettuce will soon be harvested from other growing regions in the U.S., including Florida and Arizona.
As of Friday, there were 22 confirmed cases of E. coli associated with romaine lettuce in Canada; and at least 32 cases in the U.S.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Bahamas Agricultural Health and Food Safety Authority (BAHFSA) advised local retailers and wholesalers to voluntarily remove romaine lettuce from their shelves, noting that the E. coli outbreak and warning of romaine lettuce in the U.S. extended to consumers in The Bahamas.
It said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was conducting a traceability study to determine the origin of the outbreak, “hence, no recall has been made”.
In response to the warning, Roberts said Super Value put notices on romaine products in their stores, effectively advising customers to purchase at their own risk.
The sign read, ‘Health notice: please note there is a health alert on romaine lettuce’.
Speaking to Eyewitness News, Roberts said he has not stopped eating romaine lettuce since the warning, saying there is “more chance of winning the lotto than something happening to me on this recent romaine lettuce health alert”.
“Hopefully no one in The Bahamas has had a problem or is going to have a problem,” he added.
There have been no reports of illness in The Bahamas associated with the E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce.
Someone who has consumed contaminated lettuce can experience symptoms within 12 to 24 hours or up to a week after ingestion, according to the BAHFSA.
Symptoms include vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever and loss of appetite.
The Super Value president also commended international food and safety authorities, noting there is a massive market of produce imported in The Bahamas from a number of sources, and there are rarely issues.
Roberts said he believes within a matter of days, suppliers outside of the contamination source will be able to resume operations and the matter will be cleared up.
He advised customers that in the interim, in addition to Iceberg lettuce, prices of kale, spinach and related products will likely go up.