Grower Steps to Keep Romaine Safe May Not Be Enough

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Grower Steps to Keep Romaine Safe May Not Be Enough - Consumer Reports

After last spring's deadly E. coli outbreak, new safeguards were put in place. But the government now says avoid romaine.


Romaine lettuce production is making its annual return to the Yuma, Ariz., region, where the bulk of the nation’s winter supply of this salad green is grown. But earlier this year, romaine from Yuma was the source of the largest E. coli outbreak in more than a decade; 210 people became ill, and five died.

The outbreak, which was first disclosed in April, led Consumer Reports to advise people to stop eating romaine, and many did. Some 38 percent of Americans who were aware of the outbreak avoided romaine, according to a nationally representative Consumer Reports survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults. Another 14 percent took an extra step and stopped eating salad greens altogether.

Lettuce sales dropped dramatically, too. From April through June, about $400 million of lettuce was sold, about $70 million less than the same time period in 2017, according to the United Fresh Produce Association and Nielsen. No other produce category saw that kind of sales decline this year.
 
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