November has come and gone, and with it another major food safety problem with Romaine lettuce causing an illness hazard and sickening your guests. This week, we’d like to look at some of the potential causes of these outbreaks, and how good food safety training helps prevent sickening your guests with contaminated lettuce.
Hints On How To Prevent A Food Safety Problem with Romaine Lettuce
Like most vegetables, romaine lettuce grows in the dirt, and as we all know, dirt is dirty. Soil contains all sorts of bacteria and contaminates, it is home is insects and snails, and it can be further contaminated by fertilizers and other outside sources. Even the water that farmers use to water their crops can be contaminated with bacteria that can be harmful to people who consume the final product.
Some farms that grow our produce also house livestock. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that manure can spread from one section of the farm to another on a worker’s boots or the tread of a tractor tire. As you can imagine, there are infinite possibilities as to how romaine lettuce becomes a health hazard, but what can we do about it?
Unfortunately, keeping the food from becoming contaminated on the farm is outside of the scope of what we do as a food safety training provider, however, we can help you take steps to keep lettuce in your restaurant clean and free from contaminates. Here are a few steps you should take:
- Inspect lettuce upon delivery
- Wash lettuce thoroughly
- Be alert for recalls
- Dispose of potentially contaminated romaine lettuce
A close inspection of your lettuce will reveal how much soil has been shipped with your product or if bugs and snails have tagged along for the ride. If you feel that your lettuce isn’t up to food safety standards, don’t be afraid to reject the shipment.
It’s not just a food safety problem with Romaine, all fresh produce should be washed thoroughly before serving, but lettuces such as romaine need extra attention. There’s a reason that you hear about more food poising cases from lettuce than potatoes. Potatoes and many other fruits and vegetables have one continuous outside surface, so a quick wash gets rid of more bacteria than a quick wash of a head of lettuce. We suggest washing your lettuce after taking the leaves off of the head in order to rinse areas that won’t be cleaned if the head is washed whole.
Finally, be aware of recalls and dispose of compromised lettuce. Taking a hit on food cost is a much better option that sickening your guests.
Did your business suffer from that latest recall of romaine lettuce?