In response to the recent and widely publicized e-coli outbreak that caused almost all of the romaine lettuce in America to be temporarily removed from the supply chain, major U.S. lettuce producers have resigned themselves to changing how lettuce is tracked as it travels through various channels of distribution. This sort of tracking requires a change in labeling practices, and it won't be cheap.
In light of all the negative lettuce-related publicity, producers such as Dole, Taylor Farms, and Fresh Express have opted to self-regulate, which is much cheaper and greatly preferred to waiting for the FDA to take action. The FDA always appreciates any attempts by industry to self-regulate because the agency admittedly lacks the necessary resources to effectively address all but the most egregious of problems. According to industry spokespeople, the new labels will include where the lettuce is grown as well as when it was harvested, which makes me wonder why this sort of information isn't already a requirement. It seems pretty hard to trace something if you don't know where it came from. Thankfully, the practices will also extend to restaurants.
Obviously, prices will rise as a result of the costs of implementing this new plan and address any future regulation before it happens, but by how much remains a mystery. Even though statistically, you have a better chance of being struck by a bus than getting e-coli from Romaine lettuce, consumers will likely pay the new price. Indeed, the industry wants to avoid any further damage to its reputation, and the best way to do that is to apologize and explain the remedies you will employ to insure that it doesn't happen again. Smartly, major producers have done just that and have (so far) taken some very appropriate steps. If the damage to the Romaine pedigree is to be contained, it will be crucial that these industry leaders now follow through on their promises.
Discussion: Does the e-coli situation affect your attitudes towards Romaine? Explain. Do you think the proposed labeling guidelines go far enough? If not, what would you prescribe?
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