FDA Statement on Nunes Lettuce Recall FDA Statement on Nunes Lettuce Recall
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

On October 8, 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) became aware that The Nunes Company, Inc., of Salinas, California initiated a voluntary recall of green leaf lettuce distributed under the Foxy brand. The company reported to FDA that it initiated the recall because of E.coli contamination of water used to irrigate the lettuce plants in the field during growing. At this time, there has been no determination of whether the E. coli found is O157:H7—the highly infectious type that can cause life-threatening foodborne illness in humans—or the more common, generally harmless strains of E. coli that usually do not cause disease. Further, there has been no known human illness linked to this recall.

Based on current information about the scope of this E. coli contamination, FDA views the firm’s prompt action as commendable, because it is better to be cautious than to potentially put consumers at risk of contracting a serious foodborne illness. As FDA becomes aware of additional information about the contamination of the water supply that triggered the current voluntary recall, including the results of additional ongoing tests, the agency will make this information available to the public immediately.

Fresh leafy greens grown and consumed in the United States are safe. Every year there are many thousands of pounds of fresh leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach grown in the United States and consumed by the public with no consequent illness. However, outbreaks do occur, such as the recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to raw spinach, and there is a need to do everything possible to minimize the likelihood of further outbreaks and prevent serious illness. For this reason, FDA has taken a number of actions in recent years, in partnership with its sister agencies, to improve the safety of fresh leafy greens and is working on additional steps. From farm to table, everyone has a responsibility to ensure food safety, including growers, processors, distributors, retailers and consumers, and government.

FDA believes there is a need to examine and improve certain agricultural practices to minimize the risk of E. coli O157:H7 contamination of leafy greens. FDA and the State of California launched the Lettuce Safety Initiative in August 2006 to minimize such risk and to create greater awareness by industry of FDA’s commitment to food safety and concern about the safety of lettuce. This Initiative has since been broadened to include spinach and other leafy greens. The Initiative has a number of key objectives, including assessing current industry approaches and stimulating new efforts to improve lettuce safety; identifying industry practices that potentially lead to product contamination and developing policy or guidance and identifying research to minimize future outbreaks; taking targeted regulatory action using a risk-based approach toward areas most likely to be the source of contamination; and alerting consumers early and responding rapidly in the event of an outbreak.

For more information on the FDA Lettuce Safety Initiative, see www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/lettsafe.html.

FDA will update the public on the lettuce and spinach recalls as more information becomes available. Check this site for updated information.