Taiwan tightens regulations on imports of romaine lettuce from US

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(AP photo)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Wednesday that a safety certificate will now be required for all imports of romaine lettuce from the United States, amid reports of E. coli contamination of lettuce grown in Salinas, California.

With the introduction of the new regulations that are effective initially from Nov. 28 to Dec. 27, imports of romaine from the U.S. must be accompanied by a certificate and other documentation issued by American food safety authorities, otherwise the product will not be allowed into Taiwan, the FDA said.

The U.S. and Canadian governments recently warned consumers not to eat romaine lettuce from Salinas, after some 60 cases of E. coli infection of the O157:H7 strain were linked in the U.S. to contaminated products from that region, according to the FDA.

Romaine lettuce has been implicated in three separate outbreaks of that E. coli strain in U.S. in the last two years -- in December 2017, spring 2018, and fall 2018.

The E. coli involved in the latest outbreak was the same severe type as in the two major outbreaks in 2018, according to the FDA.

Since January, Taiwan has imported about 4,000 metric tons of romaine lettuce, some of which was from Salinas, but imports from that region have been suspended since September, according to FDA section chief Liao Tzu-ting (廖姿婷).

The new regulations pertaining to romaine lettuce imports from the U.S. are being implemented for one month initially, with the possibility of an extension, she said.

Liao advised that consumers who buy American romaine lettuce should not eat it raw.

E. coli O157:H7 infections typically cause acute bloody diarrhea, which may lead to hemolytic-uremic syndrome -- a potentially life-threatening condition that affects the blood and blood vessels.

Over the past few years, E. coli O157:H7 cases have been reported in North America, Europe, South Africa, Japan, Australia and parts of South America, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).