Guyana has placed a temporary restriction on the importation of Romaine lettuce amid an outbreak of the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria in the United States.
The measure was announced today by the National Agricultural and Extension Institute (NARIE). Additionally, NARIE said it will not be issuing further permits and will recall all those issued in the past three months as a result of the outbreak.
In stating its pre-emptive move, NARIE said the restriction will be lifted once it receives notification that the bacteria are no longer a threat to the produce from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) E. coli is a bacterium commonly found in the gut of humans and other warm-blooded animals. “While most strains are harmless, some can cause severe foodborne disease.”
Almost two dozen people across 12 American states fell ill during the outbreak between July and September this year.
“When romaine lettuce was identified as the likely source of the outbreak, the available data at the time indicated that the outbreak was not ongoing and romaine lettuce eaten by sick people was past its shelf life…”– The Food and Drug Administration
“E. coli infection is usually transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food, such as undercooked meat products and raw milk,” WHO states.
The FDA came under fire last week when it announced the previously unrevealed outbreak almost two months after it was known to the agency.
“When romaine lettuce was identified as the likely source of the outbreak, the available data at the time indicated that the outbreak was not ongoing and romaine lettuce eaten by sick people was past its shelf life and no longer available for sale,” said the FDA last Thursday. “The FDA is communicating details about the outbreak at this time to help ensure full awareness by the public and to highlight the ongoing importance of industry actions to help ensure the safety of leafy greens.”
Two major outbreaks last year left five dead and hundreds of others sick across the US.
The symptoms of E. coli include abdominal cramps and diarrhoea, which may be bloody, according to WHO. Fever and vomiting may also be experienced. While most patients recover within 10 days, some cases of the disease may become life-threatening.