ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – Consulting the restaurants to their customers? Romaine quiet.
The government is still investigating how romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona, was apparently contaminated with E. coli bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control of the United States, at least 84 people were affected in 1
But in many restaurants across the country, Romaine is still on the menu. Both family businesses and big chains say they have aligned with suppliers and are confident that their romaine comes from places that are not affected by E. coli. If you're not sure, replace Romaine with iceberg and other salads.
"We asked a lot of people where we got our salad from," said Armando Ayala, manager of Cavatore Italian Restaurant in Houston. Cavatore offers three dinner salads – including a Caesar made tabside – with salad from California and local farms in Texas.
As it turns out, a lot of Romaine comes from California, which grows 74 percent of the national salad, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Even Salad and Go, a chain of 12 restaurants in Arizona, gets their salad from California.
Just Salad, which has 28 locations in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Chicago, says that this week saw a business surge a social media flash to reassure customers that his novel from Salinas, California is coming. Supply Chain Manager Janani Lee said Just Salad already wore five other types of salad, but recently Iceberg for people who were still worried.
Katie Calabrese and her friend, Amanda Larsen, both have thrown Romaine out at home, but it was not holding up her salad addiction. On Thursday, they were waiting in a restaurant in Sweetgreen, Philadelphia.
"I definitely do non-Romaine decisions," Calabrese said.
"I eat kale," Larsen said.
The CDC announced for the first time on 10 April an outbreak of E. coli in several states. Until the end of last week, she advised customers, grocers and restaurants not to eat whole heads of romaine or salad mixes, which Romans could include, if they did not know, were not grown in Yuma.
The government is still investigating this outbreak. But generally, E. coli is spread by human or animal fecal matter, contaminated water or improper handling.
Salads UP, which has two restaurants in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin, says it did not have to get rid of much Romaine, as it gets deliveries almost daily. For the time being, Romaine has been replaced by iceberg, says Robert Mayer, co-founder of Salads UP.
"Customers do not care about the temporary solution, and in general, they appreciate us taking precautions," he said. Burger chain Chipotle also temporarily stopped serving Romaine last weekend, but California-based Romaine was on Monday again on the menu.
McDonald's, Wendy's and Chick-fil-A say none of the Roma in their US stores comes from Yuma. But Chick-fil-A says it makes some salads with other salads or does not offer them because of a lack of Romaine.
Frog Holler, a greengrocer who sells to restaurants in Michigan, says all of his Romaine come from California. But many customers have not ordered it because of the fear. Iceberg orders rose slightly. Others would only take Romans with an official statement that it was safe, said Brittany Savela, an office assistant.
Then, for about a week, Frog Holler had to climb when his own suppliers stopped shipping Romans.
"We just could not get my hands on it," she said. But now it's back to normal.
It might be difficult for the farmers to make up any gaps in Roman time at this time of the year, as planting schedules have already been set.
Fifth-Generation Thursday On Richter Farm in Puyallup, Wash., Workers planted the first Roma harvest of the season, harvested around June 1st. Tim Richter and his son Timothy cultivate romaine lettuce, red leaf and green lettuce in addition to other crops. They sell most of their salad to large grocery chains.
They hope that the E. coli question will soon be clarified and that people will realize that the problem is not related to all romaine lettuce. The judges say that they use conventional fertilizers – not manure – and irrigate with well water to secure their harvest.
"The biggest testament is that we eat it," said Timothy Richter.
AP Writers Joe Pisani of New York and Ally Villarreal of Philadelphia and AP photographer Ted Warren of Puyallup contributed.