HONOLULU (KHON2) - There's a new step to keep people safe from contaminated lettuce. The FDA now recommends labels on all romaine lettuce so people know where it's from and when it was harvested.
Investigators have linked the E. Coli outbreak to California, but farms and businesses everywhere else have been impacted because they couldn't sell romaine lettuce. Now that's about to change.
The FDA is urging growers, processors, distributors, and retailers to clearly label the growing region and harvest date of all romaine products. The label can also mention if the lettuce was hydroponically or greenhouse grown.
This will show that the romaine is not from California. If it does not have this information, the FDA says you shouldn't eat it. The new labeling is a recommendation, not a requirement. Produce wholesaler and distributor Armstrong Produce says they won't need to add any extra labeling.
"We can track everything that comes into our facility. We have a system that allows us to track one step back and one step forward, so we know where it comes from and we know who we sold it to," said Communications Director Tish Uyehara.
Uyehara believes it will take some time for the new labels to come out. Uyehara tells us since the recall, the company has lost container loads of romaine lettuce. Armstrong Produce gets a couple of shipments a week and many include boxes of romaine lettuce, but without the proper labeling, they'll be getting rid of all the romaine.
Since the beginning, the state has said that all locally grown romaine lettuce is safe to eat. Peter Oshiro of the Department of Health says the problem on the mainland is if a small area in a large farm is infected then the entire lot is contaminated.
"We've never used to see this multi-state outbreaks before, but now that our food systems are from mega farms these are the problems we get," said Oshiro.
The best way to reduce the risk as much as possible is to wash your produce under running water, even if it says it's already washed. Oshiro says you should wash it yourself.