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Beyond causing more than 150 people to become sick, the E. coli outbreak caused huge losses to growers, a drop in sales for retailers, and disrupted supply chains as restaurants scrambled to find romaine lettuce alternatives — and the impact could linger, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
“During the week of April 14 (the week the news broke), romaine dollar sales fell 20 percent, which pushed total lettuce performance down by double digits: iceberg lettuce dollar sales were down 19 percent; red leaf lettuce dollar sales fell 16 percent; and endive dollar sales dipped 17 percent,” according to a Nielsen report on National Salad Month. In May, Romaine sales fell nearly 45 percent, according to the WSJ, iceberg fell 22 percent, and red leaf fell 17 percent. Prices for whole heads of romaine lettuce were down 60 percent.
For romaine lettuce growers it meant abandoning the popular green, or shifting production out of Arizona and into other areas like California. “Trucks all across the country were dumping romaine,” Drew McDonald, vice president of quality and food safety at Taylor Farms, told the WSJ.
Retailers cleared romaine lettuce off shelves and are continuing to reassure and educate customers about the origin of their lettuce.
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