Local stores, restaurants take heed of romaine lettuce recall

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide recall of romaine lettuce products Tuesday. (The Enterprise/Kristine de Leon).

ONTARIO – Supermarkets and restaurants locally were heeding a warning from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday and pulled romaine lettuce products from grocery shelves or stopped serving the vegetable.

In a sweeping move the CDC issued a nationwide warning on the produce in the wake after an outbreak E. coli that infected 32 people across 11 states. The CDC said evidence shows romaine lettuce is the likely source of the outbreak.

The warning – which includes Canada – was delivered just days before millions of Americans sit down for the traditional Thanksgiving holiday dinner.

“The timing is terrible,” said Dan Buckley, manager of Ontario’s Albertsons.

Buckley said he received the CDC warning early Tuesday afternoon and store employees immediately pulled all products of romaine lettuce from store shelves.

“Everything we have on hand has to be destroyed. Anything that comes in, until further notice, the same thing,” said Buckley.

Red Apple owner Larry Robb said he also reacted fast when he received the warning.

“We took all the romaine lettuce from our shelves about three seconds after we got the alert. It’s all out of our shelves, and the shelves were taken out, cleaned up and disinfected,” said Robb.

The CDC also warned Americans not to eat any romaine lettuce they bought recently “even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.” The CDC urged consumers to throw away any romaine lettuce products.

Robb said the recall didn’t impact his store that much.

“It didn’t take our workers long to remove all the lettuce from the shelves and clean up,” said Robb.

Robb said his store buys produce from warehouses who, in turn, buy produce from multiple suppliers of romaine lettuce.

“We have a couple of suppliers of just romaine lettuce, but we also have different supplies that carry salad kits that are pre-mixed with romaine lettuce. We had to pull all of those too,” said Robb.

Buckley said his employees also discarded items such as pre-made sandwiches and bagged fresh salad.

Shawn Grove, co-owner of Mackey’s restaurant in Ontario, said he pulled all of his romaine lettuce Tuesday.

Malinda Martinez, owner of Belly Buster Sandwich Shop in Ontario, said some customers asked about the romaine lettuce,

“But I don’t use romaine lettuce,” said Martinez.

Buckley said the warning Tuesday was not the first regarding potentially unsafe lettuce.

“The one four months ago – out of Arizona – was worse,” said Buckley.

Buckley was referring an E. coli spate that killed five people and made nearly 200 more sick. That outbreak was later traced to a contaminated canal near a lettuce farm.

Robb said the recall is inconvenient, may be expensive and so far, no one knows where the contamination came from.

“We hope we get reimbursed from this. We are going to our supplies for credit back. And I think the suppliers will go after their manufacturers and growers,” said Robb.