Lettuce Talk Traceability

December 11, 2020

While the FDA and CDC narrowed down the area in central California they believe the contaminated lettuce was grown, they have yet to pinpoint the source or point of contamination of what is the 3rd E. Coli outbreak in 2 years.

“Traceback activities in this romaine lettuce investigation are ongoing and new information continues to be gathered. Analysis of information available through November 30 has not narrowed the potential sources of contaminated romaine lettuce to a specific farm, processor, shipper, or distribution center.”

The FDA and CDC decided to play it safe before Thanksgiving urging all retailers and consumers to throw away any products containing romaine lettuce. They recommended removing products from the market because they could not produce any data to tie the reported cases to a specific source of any kind. While they have since stated lettuce grown hydroponically and outside the area of central California are safe to eat; it is strongly advised to avoid any products that do not contain labels with harvest dates and locations.

Fresh produce does present unique challenges regarding the ability to label individual units; however, there are ways to accurately track product with barcodes and an ERP/ digital platform. With limited amounts of information available to investigators, the FDA is still searching for the original source of the outbreak. If more data pertaining to the lettuce were available to investigators, this timeline could be greatly reduced as would the number of E. Coli cases reported.

This recall is a great example of the importance of maintaining stock lot information throughout the entire production process all the way through to customers or distributors. ERPs can track stock lot information from seed to sale and everything in between by digitally recording and tracking harvest locations, dates, labels, shipment records, and customer and vendor records. The use of an ERP system allows for quick and easy insight into critical data, removing dangerous product quickly, ultimately saving lives with a few calculated clicks.

For the latest update by the FDA, please click the following link: