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Romaine remains on US menus despite countrywide E.coli warning

Reuters By Gabriella Borter and Gina Cherelus NEW YORK, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Romaine lettuce still had a place at…


By Gabriella Borter and Gina Cherelus

NEW YORK, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Romaine lettuce still had a place at the salad bars of some cafes and delicacies in New York City on Wednesday despite a rare, nationwide US

The blanket warning, precipitated by an E. coli outbreak in 1

1 states and Canada that has made at least 50 people ill, was issued on Tuesday by the US Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Large chain grocers such as Whole Foods Market, owned by Inc., and national sales retailers such as Chopt and Fresh & Co told Reuters they stopped selling Romaine as soon as the warning was issued.

But some individually owned shops said Romaine was still being sold because officials had not specified the source of potentially contaminated lettuce, such as a farm or company.

“It’s up to the customers to choose to eat it or not , “said Alex Hwang, manager of Dali Market in midtown Manhattan. “

The CDC said at least 32 people in 11 states, including two in New York, had fallen sick from E. coli bacteria between Oct. 8 and 31. The Public Health Agency of Canada said it was investigating 18 cases of E.coli.

A total of 13 cases in the two countries resulted in hospitalizations. No deaths have been reported.

Both the U.S. and Canadian alerts, coming as millions of Americans planned their Thanksgiving Day menus, urged consumers, restaurants and retailers to throw out all the Romaine left in stock and sanitize their shelves.

Given the early October onset of the first illnesses reported, the tainted Romaine in all likelihood originated from California, which ranks as the leading producer of American lettuce, FDA spokesman Peter Cassell told Reuters on Wednesday.


On Wednesday, Reuters visited nine independently owned delis and cafes in midtown Manhattan , where salad bar lines at lunchtime are typically long. All but one were selling romaine lettuce, some of which had been delivered on Wednesday.

“No one came by and told us. We did not know,” Irivia Spivey, a salad tosser at Mamaroo, a Korean cafe, said as her manager stood by.

A sample by Reuters or 12 grocers and supermarkets in Chicago, Detroit and Denver found that romaine had been removed from their shelves.

“As soon as I heard on the news yesterday, I threw Everything in the trash that had romaine lettuce – salads, romaine itself, “said Mike Fisayo, manager of Chicago’s South Loop Market.

Cory Lunde, a spokesman for the Western Growers farm trade group, said the early onset date and industry shipment schedules pointed to romaine harvested in September from the central California coast, probably from the areas around Salinas or Santa Maria, as the most likely source.

Based on what is known, the tainted lettuce had almost certainly expired and disappeared from the distribution chain even befor The voluntary withdrawals went into effect on Tuesday, Lunde said.

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the blanket scope of the lettuce alert was “unusual but certainly not unprecedented,” citing a 2006 warning about tainted spinach as the last time a cross -country advisory was issued for an entire type of food.

“We did that out of an abundance of caution, knowing that we’re going to a holiday weekend that’s very centered on food,” Cassell said.

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