E. coli outbreak ‘has not affected the US food supply’, says FDA

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags E. coli Food and drug administration Fda

In an exceptional move, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a statement on the E. coli outbreak gripping Europe, telling American consumers that they do not need to alter their shopping habits.

The FDA said it has implemented additional food import controls in response to the European E. coli O104:H4 outbreak that has killed 22 people and sickened more than 2,200 others. So far, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, which is responsible for the country’s disease control and prevention, has not managed to trace the source of the outbreak, although Germans have been advised to avoid cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and, most recently, bean sprouts.

The FDA said it receives very little fresh produce from Europe, particularly at this time of the year.

FDA associate commissioner for regulatory affairs Dara Corrigan, who is responsible for US FDA border activities, said: "When these products are presented for import, we will sample them, and we will analyze them. The FDA will not allow any products found to be contaminated to enter the US, and, if contamination is found, will flag future shipments for appropriate action. As more information about the source of the outbreak emerges, we will adjust our public health protection efforts, especially those at the border, accordingly."

Meanwhile, food safety attorney Bill Marler has said that the outbreak should serve as a wake-up call for governments and businesses around the world. Currently, neither the FDA nor the US Department of Agriculture tests for strains of E. coli other than O157:H7 – the most common strain causing illness in humans.

Deputy director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Donald Kraemer said: "Food growers, manufacturers and distributors are responsible for marketing safe food and taking any steps necessary to ensure that their products are indeed safe. The FDA has provided scientific guidance to the produce industry on ways to minimize the risk of E. coli, and these methods will reduce the risk of the strain of E. coli causing the European outbreak as well as the more common strains."

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