Last year’s string of outbreaks of E. coli bacteria in the U.S. food supply have left many questions in the minds of Americans. But limited resources and other food contamination outbreaks left the Food and Drug Administration with no real answers. In 2006, E. coli-contaminated lettuce served at a Taco John’s restaurant sickened 81 people in Minnesota. Around that time, there were also outbreaks in spinach, then later peanut butter. The most recent outbreak was in a large portion of the nation’s pet food supply.
In most cases, officials from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention have confirmed where the culprit food originated. For instance, an investigation found that the tainted Taco John’s lettuce most likely came from a farm in Central California. But the agencies have yet to unearth how these foods became contaminated and what can be done to prevent further contaminations.
Some have criticized the way these agencies handled the cases but officials said they are simply doing what they can with what they have. One attorney, who has worked several contamination lawsuits involving the lettuce contamination, said investigations are typically slow. Bill Marler, a Seattle, Washington, attorney specializing in food-poisoning cases, said he has yet to get results from a 2005 Dole lettuce outbreak.
He told CNN, “You’d think that after so many outbreaks, the government and the leafy green industry would do something about this.”