The humble cauliflower is now implicated in the same widespread food-safety scare that recently had federal authorities telling the American public to avoid all romaine lettuce.
A large-scale produce farm in California, Adam Bros. Farming Inc., issued a statement Dec. 13, announcing it was recalling (pdf) the cauliflower it had distributed to wholesalers across 10 US states—Arizona, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania—and in Canada and Mexico.
“The recall was initiated after it was discovered that sediment from a reservoir near where the produce was grown tested positive for E. coli,” Adam Bros. said in its statement. “Filtered and treated water from the reservoir may have come in contact with the produce after it was harvested.”
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the company had not shipped out any produce since Nov. 20.
The cauliflower recall punctuates just how pervasive food-safety problems can be on farms that grow a variety of crops using the same water systems. In November, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned the American public to steer clear of romaine lettuce until federal inspectors were able to figure out the sources of an E. coli outbreak tied to at least 59 illnesses and 23 hospitalizations.
As of Dec. 13, the FDA had narrowed its search to farms in three California counties. The agency said Adam Bros. is not an isolated case, and that its inspectors are still looking at “what commonalities this farm may have with other farms and areas that are being assessed as part of the investigation.”
The good news is that the government is lifting its across-the-board suggestion that Americans avoid all romaine lettuce. The FDA has cleared produce that comes from San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, and Ventura counties in California, which means consumers will have access to romaine and cauliflower—but package labels should be searched carefully.