Produce distributor in limbo after CDC's advisory on romaine lettuce

Valuable romaine lettuce shipments on hold

SAN ANTONIO – About 600 valuable cases of romaine lettuce and salad mix with romaine sit in Fernando Gonzalez’s 35-degree warehouse with pink “Do Not Use” labels on them, less than 24 hours after a food safety alert was issued by the Centers of Disease Control.

Gonzalez said a blanket advisory covering all romaine products is in effect until the CDC’s food detectives can pinpoint the source of last month’s E. coli outbreak in 11 states and two Canadian provinces. None of the cases took place in Texas.

No deaths have been reported among 32 cases of E. coli in the U.S. and another 18 in Canada.

“We can’t do anything until they zero in and say it came from a particular farm or even this particular state,” Gonzalez said.

He said he expects the CDC to issue a specific recall.

The boxes currently at River City Produce are from several states and Mexico.

Gonzalez said he knows the drill given similar situations in the past.

“We have a protocol which we follow and basically lock everything down,” he said. “That’s why our guys aren’t shipping. We notify our clients.”

He said they’re being advised not to use what they have now in their stores or restaurants.

Gonzalez said if the source of the E. coli is not located, eventually, “we’re going to have to throw it away.”

He said it will be costly since the loss isn’t covered by insurance.

“Nobody’s life is worth a box of romaine," Gonzalez said. 

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