MONTEREY, Calif. (KION) Over 30 boxes of romaine lettuce are headed for the dumpster after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned of an E. coli outbreak found in Salinas romaine lettuce. “It's small in comparison to other companies. Consider the packing companies that move semis of romaine,” said Owner of Peninsula Produce, Rafael Melendez.
At Peninsula Produce romaine is a top-selling crop. The locally owned market supplies leafy greens to nearly 50 restaurants on the Central Coast, but Saturday, dozens of orders were returned. “The restaurants, hotels, and hospitals. Everyone is impacted by this financial situation. Once again, how can we put a price tag on people's health?,” said Melendez.
The price tag isn’t small. Melendez said each box of romaine cost him around $22. Melendez predicted they will lose nearly $1,000 from the outbreak alone. “We may sell two pallets a week but people sell 10, 20 pallets a week. The financial impact is definitely devastating for a lot of people,” said Melendez.
The outbreak has already sickened 40 people in 16 states. The CDC urges people to toss any romaine with a “use by” date ranging October 29th, 2019 to November 1st, 2019.
President of the Grower-Shopper Association in Salinas, Chris Valadez, said improvements will need to be made. “There's much more that we need to learn, much more that we need to do, and much more that we need to focus on to make sure that our number one goal is met, and that is producing safe food for the consumer,” said Valadez.
In the meantime, Peninsula Produce recommends the many other lettuce options in their shop. “There are many options out there that have nothing to do with romaine. It's not worth taking the chance,” said Melendez.