BASSETERRE, St. Kitts -– Only romaine lettuce grown in the US states of Arizona and Florida can be imported into St. Kitts and Nevis according to a statement issued today by Ministry of Health Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws.
On Nov. 21, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the withdrawal/recall of all romaine lettuce imported from the US because romaine lettuce was implicated in a multistate outbreak of E. coli bacteria infection. The investigation of this outbreak by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) is ongoing.
Based on the latest information they have ascertained, the FDA in its latest statement posted on Dec. 13 stated that the outbreak of E. coli infections in the US has been linked to romaine lettuce grown and harvested on farms located in the following three counties in California: (1) Monterey, (2) San Benito and (3) Santa Barbara. The FDA is now targeting its warning to romaine lettuce from the aforementioned areas and further stated that romaine lettuce grown outside these locations do not appear to be related to the outbreak.
The FDA also announced that all romaine lettuce producers are asked to voluntarily label romaine lettuce showing: (1) harvest origin/location, place where lettuce was grown and harvested; and (2) date when it was harvested.
In light of the latest U.S. FDA Statement, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, has advised the following:
1. Only romaine lettuce from the U.S. States of Arizona and Florida can be imported into the Federation at this time.
2. All wholesalers, retailers and consumers must not sell, distribute, serve or consume romaine lettuce imported from the US without a label showing its harvest location and harvest date (after Nov. 30). If you do not know where the romaine lettuce is from, do not eat it.
3. All importers must indicate their intention to import romaine lettuce from the US by sending relevant correspondence to the Environmental Health Department, Ministry of Health at the following email address: email@example.com.
4. The Ministry of Health will check and monitor all romaine lettuce imported from the US to ensure that the Port of Origin, the harvest location and harvest date are clearly and prominently stated.
5. Random samples of imported romaine lettuce will be tested by the St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards to ensure that imports are free from E. coli bacteria and any other food-borne pathogen.
6. This advisory includes all varieties of romaine lettuce such as whole heads or hearts, bags and boxes of pre-cut lettuce and salad mixes, including Caesar salad.
7. If you do not know where and when your imported romaine lettuce was harvested, do not sell, serve or consume it.
8. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.
The Chief Medical Officer will continue to monitor the status of the E. coli outbreak investigation in the US and will issue subsequent advisories accordingly.