Jamaica suspends romaine lettuce imports

(Jamaica Observer) JAMAICA has placed a temporary ban on the importation of romaine lettuce because of the E. coli outbreak in the United States.

The decision was taken yesterday by the the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, through its Plant Quarantine and Produce Inspection Branch, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s Public Health Division.

The agriculture ministry, in a statement yesterday, said imports of the vegetable now in transit will be seized for destruction upon arrival in Jamaica.

“E. coli bacteria poses a serious public health concern, and the suspension of the importation of romaine lettuce is a necessary and urgent step to protect the health of local consumers,” the ministry said.

“Under the Consumer Protection Act, consumers are therefore to refrain from purchasing or consuming imported romaine lettuce until further notice,” added the minsitry.

Consumers who have purched the vegetable recently have been asked to discard it immediately or return the package to the grocery store for a full refund.

On Tuesday, US health officials issued an unusually broad warning against all types of romaine lettuce amid an E. coli outbreak. They asked restaurants and grocers to stop selling it, people to stop eating it, and everyone to throw it all out.

Thirty-two illnesses in 11 states have been linked to romaine. Canada also was affected, with 18 illnesses in Ontario and Quebec. No deaths have been reported.

The Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday that the strain of E. coli in the current outbreak differs from the one linked to romaine earlier this year that sickened about 200 people and killed five. But it appears similar to the strain identified in a 2017 outbreak that happened around the same time of year.

That outbreak was linked to “leafy green”, but a specific supplier or vegetable was never identified in the United States

This time officials were able to issue an alert earlier and specifically warn against romaine because of information collected through interviews with people who got sick, said Laura Gieraltowski of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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