Here we go again. Near the end of November, the CDC reported 40 people in 16 states have fallen ill due to E.coli found in romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas growing region in California. Due to the vast amount of lettuce grown in this region, the FDA strongly urged consumers to dispose of all romaine in any form if there was any uncertainty as to where the lettuce was grown. This means that grocery stores, foodservice suppliers and restaurants were unable to use whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, chopped romaine or salad mixes that contain romaine. This left a multitude of affected certified food protection managers scrambling to find alternatives, especially considering the recall occurred just before a very busy Thanksgiving week.
Romaine Alternatives for Affected Certified Food Protection Managers During Recall
Romaine is a staple in the food industry. Due to its crisp texture and traditional use in Caesar salads, it’s always heavily in demand, but what can CFPMs do when it’s suddenly unavailable?
First thing certified food protection managers must do is inform guests that romaine lettuce is unavailable. This can be as easy as including a notice in your menus or in a visible location before guests are seated or served. Many guests may not follow the news and may have a negative reaction to being served a different type of product than what is listed on your menu.
Secondly, you may want to find as close of an alternative as possible. With the latest recall happening just before Thanksgiving, we’ve heard stories from foodservice professionals that even other forms of lettuce had become scarce due to demand for a romaine replacement and an abundance of caution concerning all produce from the Salinas growing region. While nothing really has the crunch and flavor of romaine, there are a few potential alternatives:
- Iceberg Lettuce
- Butter Lettuce
- Green Leaf Lettuce
- Leafy Greens
Of the above alternatives, none will have the crunch factor of a crisp romaine heart, but iceberg, butter and green leaf varieties of lettuce will still have similar flavors and could provide an adequate substitute until romaine once again available. We’ve heard of some certified food managers thinking outside the box and replacing some menu items with different salads containing leafy greens such as kale, bok choy and spinach.
We’re interested in how certified food protection managers have been affected by recent romaine recalls. What alternatives did you use during the latest romaine recall?