Tainted Romaine May Have Come From Salinas Valley

Nov 21, 2018

The multistate E. coli outbreak tied to romaine lettuce may have a connection to the Salinas Valley.

Henry Gonzales is the Agricultural Commissioner for Monterey County. His office window in Salinas looks out on a field that was growing romaine just about two months ago.  

Romaine lettuce is grown in the Salinas Valley and surrounding areas from about April through September. Gonzales says the timing of the E. Coli outbreak corresponds with that season.

“If you look at the dates, the October 8 through October 31, period of illnesses, it is probable that the lettuce came from this region, from either Monterey County, San Benito County or Santa Cruz,” Gonzales says.

The Food and Drug Administration is in the early stages of the investigation and has not determined where the tainted lettuce came from, so there’s no recall yet. Until then, the FDA says throw out all romaine lettuce.

So far, 32 people are sick in 11 states with 10 cases in California.

This is the second E. Coli outbreak tied to romaine lettuce this year. Investigators linked the first outbreak to lettuce from Yuma, Arizona.

Gonzales says the timing of this current outbreak, just before Thanksgiving and on the heels of another, couldn’t be worse.

“The more these happen, the more people start to become concerned about romaine and likely not be buying it as much,” Gonzales says.

According to Monterey County’s 2017 Crop Report, the value of romaine lettuce production for local growers is over $655 million.