Consumers will start seeing romaine in retail stores and restaurant menus thanks to a labeling agreement that a handful of large romaine grower-shippers negotiated with the Food and Drug Administration.
The shippers will label romaine products clearly with the region it was grown and harvest date.
This comes about a week after FDA advised consumers to not eat any romaine and retailers and restaurants not to serve any until the outbreak source could be determined.
FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Nov. 26, “Our investigation at this point suggests that romaine lettuce associated with the outbreak comes from areas of California that grow romaine lettuce over the summer months, and that the outbreak appears to be related to ‘end of season’ romaine lettuce harvested from these areas. The involved areas include the Central Coast growing regions of central and northern California.”
Harvest is now finished in those area and has moved to the Yuma, AZ, area.
The labeling agreement was signed by Church Brothers/True Leaf Farms, Salinas, CA; Dole Fresh Vegetables, Monterey, CA; Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, CA; FiveStar Gourmet Foods/Simply Fresh, Ontario; Fresh Express, Salinas; and Taylor Farms, Salinas.
Several produce associations, such as the United Fresh Produce Association, Produce Marketing Association and Western Growers, have agreed to support the agreement and are encouraging all grower-shippers to follow the program.
William Goldfield, director of corporate communications for Dole Food Company, Inc., Westlake Village, CA, said it was important to work with FDA to establish a safe way to clear growing areas that weren’t involved in the outbreak.
“Dole has pledged to only ship romaine harvested from areas identified as safe under the current FDA advisory, and will clearly and prominently label all individually packaged romaine products as to the growing region and harvest date,” Goldfield said, Nov. 27.
“We hope to be able to have that romaine product back on shelf before the end of the week.”