Statement of CSPI Deputy Director of Regulatory Affairs Sarah Sorscher

For the second year running, a multi-state E. coli outbreak is forcing Americans to question whether the lettuce we put on our holiday tables will be safe to eat.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced yesterday that a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 tied to romaine lettuce has expanded to over 100 people in 23 states, and the full scope of this outbreak is still not yet known.

Time after time, federal and state public health investigators have struggled to trace back the source of outbreaks linked to romaine. And time and again, they’ve been unable to answer key questions about where and how the lettuce was contaminated, resulting in broad public warnings rather than swift, targeted recalls.

CSPI calls on Congress to provide new tools to the Food and Drug Administration to solve outbreaks. One of these tools, the Expanded Food Safety Investigation Act, is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives today by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate last week by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. This legislation will provide a critical new tool to federal investigators, allowing them to trace back outbreaks that emerge from concentrated animal feeding operations.

CSPI also calls on Congress to expand and enhance the FDA's authority under the Food Safety Modernization Act to ensure that food can be traced throughout the food system as it moves from farm to fork. These improvements will allow for swift, targeted recalls during outbreaks of foodborne illness.