FDA comments on deadly e-coli outbreak in Europe

June 6, 2011

The U.S. FDA has been in routine contact with the European Union and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor the current outbreak of E. coli O104 and to track any illnesses in the U.S. that may be related to the outbreak.

The U.S. FDA has been in routine contact with the European Union and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor the current outbreak of E. coli O104 and to track any illnesses in the U.S. that may be related to the outbreak.

At this time, the Robert Koch Institute, the disease control and prevention public health agency of Germany, has not yet identified the definitive source of the infectious agent causing the outbreak, but has recommended that consumers in Germany avoid raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. Over the weekend, German officials tested sprouts from an organic farm in the country's north and said they are not the cause of the E. coli outbreak.

To date, FDA believes that this outbreak has not affected the U.S. food supply. The U.S. receives relatively little fresh produce from the EU, particularly at this time of year. Due to the short shelf life of most fresh produce and the availability of growing areas in the U.S. and Central America, the EU is not a significant source of fresh produce for this country.

In response to the outbreak in Europe, as a safety precaution, FDA established certain additional import controls. FDA is currently conducting increased surveillance of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and raw salads from areas of concern. "When these products are presented for import, we will sample them, and we will analyze them," said Dara Corrigan, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, who is responsible for U.S. FDA border activities. "The FDA will not allow any products found to be contaminated to enter the U.S., and, if contamination is found, will flag future shipments for appropriate action. As more information about the source of the outbreak emerges, we will adjust our public health protection efforts, especially those at the border, accordingly."

It is ironic that the outbreak occurred just as MyPlate was unveiled, suggesting half the plate should include fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, U.S. produce remains safe and there is no reason for Americans to alter where they shop, what they buy or what they eat.

FDA: Produce Safety: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm114299

CDC Investigation Announcement: Outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O104 (STEC O104:H4) Infections Associated with Travel to Germany: http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2011/ecoliO104/index.html

Robert Koch Institute: Outbreak of haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) caused by bacterial infection http://www.rki.de/EN/Home/homepage__node.html?__nnn=true

FoodSafety.gov on E. coli:

http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/ecoli.html

FDA Food Safety Modernization Act: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FSMA/default.htm

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