U.S Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) slammed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its “stunning lack of guidance” and “slow and insufficient response” to a deadly outbreak of E. coli that Canadian health authorities linked to contaminated romaine lettuce.
Rep. DeLauro, who often champions food safety issues, sent her harsh rebuke to CDC director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, criticizing the agency’s lack of initiative in informing Americans about the E. coli outbreak. In the letter, Rep. DeLauro suggests the CDC’s delay could have cost U.S. consumers their life.
“CDC’s stunning lack of guidance to consumers regarding this outbreak is unconscionable,” Rep. DeLauro said in her letter to the CDC, noting that there were 58 confirmed infections, 22 hospitalizations, and two deaths across the U.S. and Canada related to the outbreak.
“Despite this, CDC failed to provide consumers with warnings or updated information on how to best protect their own health,” Rep. DeLauro’s letter stated. “Just as concerning, the investigation appears to have gone ‘cold,’ with the agency’s own staff seemingly content with ending the investigation without ever finding the cause and source.”
Canadian officials first identified an E. coli outbreak on Dec. 11 and linked it to romaine lettuce three days later, advising Canadians to avoid eating romaine.
In contrast, the CDC waited until Dec. 28 to notify the public about the E. coli outbreak, which it said in a news release had started around Nov. 15. While the CDC acknowledged that Canadian officials attributed the outbreak to romaine lettuce, the U.S. agency was vaguer about its findings:
“Because we have not identified a source of the infections, CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food. This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available,” the CDC said. It has not posted anything about the E. coli outbreak since.
Rep. DeLauro’s letter includes a list of questions about the outbreak. Among the questions she asks are, “What is the CDC’s justification for waiting almost a month and a half before publicly confirming the outbreak?” and “To what degree has the CDC collaborated with the Public Health Agency of Canada” in investigating the outbreak.
The Congresswoman also seeks information from the CDC about the source of the outbreak, implicated suppliers, distributors, and retailers of the contaminated food.