The recent E. coli outbreak connected to romaine lettuce has forced some East York restaurants and grocery stores to modify their orders and recipes.
Romaine is used in a vast number of food, from wraps and salads to hamburgers. The change can be a challenge for restaurants. Some are using iceberg lettuce as a substitute, while others are staying away from lettuce completely.
Although some businesses have had to make quick changes due to the outbreak, others are well-prepared.
“We stopped using romaine three years ago,” said Ash Gehani, owner of East of York Gourmet Food Co. at 1904 Danforth Ave. “Hydroponic greenhouse romaine is safe because it isn’t surrounded by animal feces, but the rest you can’t trust.”
Gehani found the correlation between E. coli and romaine a long time ago and has made sure to keep it out of his food in anticipation of another outbreak.
Major grocery companies such as Loblaws and Sobeys have pulled romaine from their stores nationwide. Metro, which operates in Ontario and Quebec, has done the same. Longos has begun to import romaine from Arizona, as it has been deemed safe.
“Aligned with the recent FDA investigation regarding food-safety concerns with romaine lettuce, all affected romaine was removed from the shelves,” Longos director of produce and floral, Mimmo Franzone, said in a recent email sent to customers.
The recent illnesses are genetically related to illnesses reported during the previous outbreak from December 2017 that affected consumers in both the U.S. and Canada, so it’s safe to assume a connection between romaine and the virus. The United States Food and Drug organization has reason to believe the romaine came from California’s Central Coast region. In Canada, at least 22 people have been sickened.
“I make sure I know where all my veggies come from at all times,” Gehani said. “We’re ethics and food first, everything else second.”