On February 5, 2004, the FDA wrote a letter to the lettuce and tomato industries to voice its concern about the frequent outbreaks linked to those products. In the letter, the FDA counted 14 such outbreaks since 1996 that it had investigated. Among other things, the letter stated:

In view of continuing outbreaks associated with fresh lettuce and fresh tomatoes, we strongly encourage firms in your industries to review their current operations in light of the agency’s guidance for minimizing microbial food safety hazards in fresh lettuce and fresh tomatoes, as well as other available information regarding pathogen reduction or elimination on fresh produce. We further encourage these firms to consider modifying their operations accordingly, to ensure that they are taking the appropriate measures to provide a safe product to the consumer. Since the available information concerning some of the recent outbreaks does not definitively identify the point of origin of the contamination, we recommend that firms from the farm level through the distribution level undertake these steps.

On September 30, 2005, a year and a half after the FDA’s 2004 letter to the lettuce industry, the Minnesota Department of Health issued a press release stating that 11 Minnesota residents had been infected by E. coli O157:H7 from contaminated Dole romaine lettuce. Two days later, the FDA issued a nationwide public health alert regarding Dole pre-packaged salads. Further investigation indicated that 22,321 cases of potentially contaminated Dole romaine lettuce had been sent to market from a processing facility in central California. Ultimately, at least 32 people were sickened in the outbreak.


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Lynne Terry of The Oregonian reported this afternoon that Oregon health authorities have announced a suspected link between 124 Salmonella Typhimurium illnesses nationally and lettuce.  The illnesses began appearing in mid-July and trailed off about a month later.  Seven Oregon residents fell ill between Aug. 4 to 16, including three in the Portland metro area.

One of the Oregon residents who became ill suffered a particularly severe illness and was hospitalized for several weeks.  Doctors removed a portion of her gastrointestinal tract, which had become necrotic and non-functional as a result of her severe infection with Salmonella Typhimurium.  We represent this unfortunate woman, and are working hard to discover for her what the ultimate source of her illness was.

This would certainly not be the first time that contaminated lettuce or other leafy greens caused an outbreak of severe illnesses.  In addition to the infamous Dole spinach E. coli outbreak in 2006, here are a few others:


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Most of the time when we’re writing about, reading about, or representing people for illnesses suffered in an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak related to produce, we’re looking at things retrospectively.  An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 happened, we know it was linked to lettuce, spinach, or some other type of fresh, raw produce, but we

Listeria monocytogenes, a potentially deadly foodborne pathogen, has been found in lettuce samples, according to a story published at monstersandcritics.com

WKMG-TV in Orlando reported Saturday that Listeria bacteria has been linked to lettuce imported from California and sold at a Fresh Market store. Store officials said late Friday the lettuce has been pulled and

Foxy lettuceThe Monterey Herald reports that Mexico is banning U.S. imports. More countries to follow?

Mexico’s Department of Health announced Monday that the country’s 105 ports of entry would block all U.S. lettuce from coming through the border as a result of Nunes Co.’s precautionary recall.

The family-run company recalled the lettuce after water from a