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It's OK to eat some romaine lettuce again, U.S. health officials say. Just check the label.
The Food and Drug Administration narrowed its blanket warning from last week, when it said people shouldn't eat any romaine because of an E. coli outbreak. The agency said Monday that the romaine linked to the outbreak appears to be from the California's Central Coast region. It said romaine from elsewhere should soon be labeled with harvest dates and regions, so people know it's OK to eat.
Consumers shouldn't eat romaine that doesn't have the label information, the FDA said. For romaine that doesn't come in packaging, grocers and retailers are being asked to post the information by the register.
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Romaine harvesting recently began shifting from California's Central Coast to winter growing areas, primarily Arizona, Florida, Mexico and California's Imperial Valley. Those winter regions weren't yet shipping when the illnesses began. The FDA also noted that hydroponically grown romaine and romaine grown in greenhouses aren't implicated in the outbreak.
The labeling arrangement was worked out as the produce industry called on the FDA to quickly narrow the scope of its warning so it wouldn't have to waste freshly harvested romaine. An industry group said people can expect to start seeing labels as early as this week. It noted that the labels are voluntary and that it will monitor whether to expand the measure to other leafy greens and produce.
The FDA said the industry committed to making the labeling standard for romaine and is considering longer-term labeling options for other leafy greens.
Robert Whitaker, chief science officer of the Produce Marketing Association, said labeling for romaine could help limit the scope of future alerts and rebuild public trust after other outbreaks.