Freshway Foods of Sidney, OH has voluntarily recalled romaine lettuce products distributed to wholesalers and food service outlets due to a possible link to an outbreak of E. coli 0145.
The romaine lettuce products were also distributed for in-store salad bars and delis for Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Market and Marsh stores in 23 states and Washington, DC. According to a this statement from the manufacturer: “Freshway Foods does not produce bulk, prepackaged romaine or bagged salad mixes containing romaine for sale in supermarkets, and therefore these products are not included in this recall.”
Anyone who has purchased romaine lettuce from an in-store salad bar or deli, or any pre-made deli salads including romaine lettuce should throw it away. For a complete list of the states affected by the romaine lettuce recall, visit Freshway Foods’ website here.
In a grim reminder of the spinach and lettuce recalls in 2006, the public is once again reminded of how important it is to wash all produce, even if it comes in ready-to-use forms. The problem is, the romaine lettuce affected by the Freshway Foods recall are food service items.
Are restaurants and delis taking the time to wash pre-packaged vegetables?
Simply stated, no they are not. I am speaking from experience of working in a deli/bakery of a major grocery chain and working as a server/bartender in a variety of restaurants.
Just as consumers believed prior to 2006 that the prepackaged salads and vegetables were “clean”, food service operators also trust that their wholesale products are clean. In my grocery store, the deli salads came from a distributor that did all of the preparation work. All of the ingredients were chopped, measured and individually packaged to be combined at the store. This practice did not include rinsing the vegetables prior to adding them to the rest of the ingredients.
In some restaurants, the chef will order packaged mixes of salad green blends or shredded lettuce for sandwiches and serve straight from the bag.
While many people will experience mild symptoms, E. coli 0145 can lead to a diarrheal illness with bloody stools. Young children and the elderly are especially susceptible to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) which can lead to serious kidney damage or even death.
The next time you order a salad at your favorite restaurant or deli, ask “Have the vegetables been washed on-site?” If the answer is “No”, I’d suggest eating a well-done cheeseburger or choosing another restaurant.
Source: Freshway Foods ; University of Maryland