SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

August 1, 2013

Origin of salad-linked outbreak still mystery

(Continued)

Only Iowa and Nebraska officials had directly linked the outbreak in their states to a salad mix of iceberg and romaine lettuce, carrots and red cabbage.

But grocery shoppers elsewhere acknowledged it was a factor as they shopped for produce.

“I can’t say I really want to go and buy particularly any lettuce right now,” said Laura Flanagan, 35, who was shopping at a Whole Foods in Dallas with her two young children. “I’m being pretty cautious about it.”

The product was widely distributed in Iowa by wholesalers who could have supplied the bagged salad mix to all types of food establishments, including restaurants and grocery stores, said Iowa Food and Consumer Safety Bureau chief Steven Mandernach.

Mandernach said at least 80 percent of the vegetables were grown and processed outside both Iowa and Nebraska. He said officials haven’t confirmed the origins of 20 percent and may never know because victims can’t always remember what they ate.

Iowa law allows public health officials to withhold the identities of any person or business affected by an outbreak. However, business names can be released to the public if the state epidemiologist or public health director determines that disclosing the information is needed to protect public safety.

Mandernach said there is no immediate threat, so his office is not required to release information about where the product came from. He said state officials believe the affected salad already has spoiled and is no longer in the supply chain.

Nebraska public health officials said they still hadn’t traced the exact origins of the outbreaks.

“I am by no means giving all-clear, green light on the issue,” said Dr. Joseph Acierno, the state’s chief medical officer and director of public health. “We’re encouraging the medical community to stay vigilant.”

Food-safety and consumer advocates say the agencies shouldn’t withhold the information.

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