Fresh Express recalls Romaine lettuce due to E.Coli concerns

A wide range of Fresh Express bagged lettuce products containing Romaine are being recalled due to the possibility of contamination by the bacteria E.coli, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Canadian health officials announced.

This is the second major recall of Fresh Express Romaine-based salads in the past two months. In May, the company said its products might have been contaminated with salmonella. Both E.coli and salmonella can cause gastric distress and have far more severe consequences to older people, the very young and those with compromised immune systems.
The recently expired bags of lettuce should be discarded immediately. The standard refund provision was not included in this recall -- apparently because the product is now expired.

The bags had use-by dates of July 8-12 and had an "S" in the product code. No illnesses connected to the recall have been reported. The recall was prompted by a positive test for E.coli during third-party lab testing that was conducted for the FDA.

Because the recall was announced after the last use-by date, the likelihood of it being captured at the retail or wholesale level -- the most effective way to keep someone from consuming a potentially dangerous product -- is virtually nil. The FDA does not have the authority to recall food, so it generally is in the hands of the company to initiate a recall. A bill to give the FDA more authority over food safety issues is currently stuck in Congress.

Ed Loyd, a spokesman for Chiquita Brands, the parent company of Fresh Express, did not respond to a request for comment.

"Fresh Express is coordinating closely with regulatory agencies. Immediately upon learning about the positive test result, Fresh Express conducted a traceability assessment and a full review of its food safety documentation, all of which were found to be in compliance with the company's multi-step food safety program including field and manufacturing records which did not show any unusual occurrences or the presence of any pathogens," the FDA said in its announcement.

Questions can be directed to Fresh Express at (800) 242-5472 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays Eastern Time.

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