WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it believes the deadly E. coli outbreak in Europe has not affected the domestic food supply and that there is no reason for Americans to alter their shopping habits.
The FDA reported that it has implemented additional food import controls in response to the outbreak that has killed 22 people and sickened more than 2,200 others. The outbreak is centered in Germany, but cases have been reported in at least 11 other European countries.
The source of the outbreak remains unknown, but German consumers have been advised to avoid cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and, most recently, bean sprouts.
The FDA said the U.S. receives very little fresh produce from Europe, but as a safety precaution, it has increased surveillance of the vegetables under question that are imported from the areas of concern.
"When these products are presented for import, we will sample them, and we will analyze them," said Dara Corrigan, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, who is responsible for U.S. FDA border activities. "The FDA will not allow any products found to be contaminated to enter the U.S., 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."
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in January, gives the FDA new authority to implement regulations aimed at preventing foodborne illness. The agency is currently developing rules that will require food-processing facilities to develop controls to reduce the risk of food contamination. Additionally, the FDA is developing a regulation to reduce the risk of foodborne illness from produce. The proposed rules should be completed at the end of this year and the beginning of 2012, respectively.