Last month, an outbreak of E.coli linked to romaine lettuce from Arizona left grocery store produce sections bare and certified food managers scrambling to find replacement ingredients for salads after a large amount of available product was pulled from the supply chain. When such an important ingredient suddenly becomes a potential food-borne illness risk, several steps must be taken.
Romaine Contamination and Certified Food Managers Reaction
The first step when news of a recall like this breaks must be to stop serving any potentially contaminated product. In this case, most romaine in restaurants and other food preparation outlets had to be thrown away. We must urge that you always take immediate and extreme action when something of this nature occurs. It would be better to err on the side of caution rather than contribute to an E.coli outbreak.
Due to the time of year, this recall affected much of the country. Cold spring weather in many states means suppliers need to rely on farmers in states such as Arizona where the weather is warm enough for this type of produce. Drastic action to recall lettuce was taken due to 98 potential cases in 22 states.
Once certified food managers remove product, they are left with a situation that compromises the availability of many items on their menu. So how does a kitchen manager adjust?
First, certified food managers should be up front and open with their guests. Placing a notice in the menu or in a visible location at a service counter, hostess station or cashier stand should be the first step. Your customers will understand if you let them know there has been a recall and, in the best interests of their health, you are unable to serve certain menu items for a short period of time.
Fortunately, with something such as romaine lettuce there are alternative ingredients. Green leaf or iceberg can serve as a temporary replacement if that is something that would be acceptable to your customers.
With the advances in technology and communication, many of these outbreaks have been contained before they become major disasters. How do you react when you have to pull product off of your shelves due to a recall?