UB pulled romaine lettuce from campus locations amid nationwide E. coli outbreak
Students looking for romaine lettuce on campus last week were left disappointed.
On April 16, UB Campus Dining & Shops’ Dining Services released a statement saying it “was notified by [its] produce supplier of a recall on chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.”
CDS said “out of an abundance of caution,” it pulled all products containing romaine lettuce from its locations. The statement was posted at CDS locations on April 14.
The flyers, however, didn’t inform students about the reason behind the pull –– a nationwide E. coli outbreak.
CDS updated the statement on April 20, almost one week after the romaine pull.
“Chopped romaine products available today are safe to eat and were not sourced from Yuma, AZ,” CDS said in a statement.
“In response to [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s and U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s] recent advisory not to eat chopped romaine lettuce sourced from Yuma, AZ, Campus Dining & Shops immediately removed all chopped romaine lettuce, sourced from Yuma, from our dining locations,” the statement read. “We have now received new shipments of chopped romaine that was not sourced from the Yuma region. The products you see today are safe to consume. Thank you for your patience.”
The CDC, however, has now expanded its warning to consumers “to cover all types of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region,” including whole heads and hearts of romaine and romaine-containing salad mixes, in addition to the original chopped romaine warning. CDS locations served 23.5 tons of romaine lettuce between August 2016 and May 2017 at CDS locations, according to UB Now.
CDS did not respond to The Spectrum’s questions regarding the romaine lettuce pull.
Both the CDC and the FDA released statements about the romaine lettuce recall on April 13, three days prior to UB’s online announcement.
“The CDC, several states, the U.S Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are investigating a multi-state outbreak” of E. coli,the CDC reported on April 13.
As of April 20, the CDC reported that the outbreak strain of E. coli infected 53 people from 16 states.
Though no deaths have been reported yet, 31 have been hospitalized and five have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome – a type of kidney failure.
The specific strain of E. coli was E. coli O157:H7,a “major food borne pathogen” that produces Shiga-toxin and is commonly found in healthy cattle, according to the National Institute of Health.
“Bovine food products and fresh produce contaminated with bovine waste are the most common sources for disease outbreaks in the United States,” according to the institute’s website.
The FDA reported theE. coli outbreak on its Outbreak Investigations page, but did not report it on their Safety Recalls list.
“No specific grower, supplier, distributor or brand has been identified at this time, so the FDA cannot officially recall what isn’t yet identified,” said Lauren Sucher, a press officer in the FDA’s Office of Media Affairs, in an email to The Spectrum.
Paulina Masailo, a full-time employee at UB’s Edgy Veggies, said the dining location did not serve any romaine lettuce last week. Romaine lettuce can be put in salads as the main lettuce option and is also found in the restaurant’s “Edgy Mix” of lettuce. Masailo said she didn’t see a change in students’ salad orders or the number of Edgy Veggies patrons.
Edgy Veggies replaced romaine lettuce with iceberg lettuce, Masailo said, and students told her their “orders tasted the same anyway when tossed in altogether in the salad.”
Masailo said Edgy Veggies received a new shipment of romaine lettuce Thursday morning. After using up the last of the iceberg lettuce, safe romaine was available to customers on Friday, the date of CDS’ updated statement.
Caroline Pippin, a sophomore biological sciences major, said it’s strange that UB gets food all the way from Arizona.
“I think [UB] made the right decision of pulling [the romaine lettuce] off the shelves when they did, but hopefully, they’re more aware of what’s being spread and where everything is coming from,” Pippin said.
Kirsten Dean is the assistant features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.