How Grocery Stores Are Responding to the Romaine Lettuce E. coli Outbreak
Here's how major chains are protecting consumers as the rates of illness increase.
As the nationwide E. coli outbreak linked to contaminated romaine lettuce continues to spread, major grocery stores across the country are responding to the Center for Disease Control warnings with swift action.
On April 13, the CDC first issued guidance urging consumers to avoid chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona region after a string of hospitalizations, and on April 20, expanded that guidance to include whole leaf romaine from Yuma.
Still, reports of infection continue. As of the latest CDC update, issued on May 2, 121 people in 25 states have been affected—including one death and 52 hospitalizations. The CDC advises consumers to “not eat or buy romaine lettuce unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region” and urges retailers and restaurants to cease serving any type of romaine from Yuma as well.
Here’s how five major grocery chains across the country have responded to the news.
In response to the April 13 warning, Albertsons-owned stores removed chopped romaine lettuce products grown in Yuma and the company changed its supplier source for all romaine lettuce and products containing it, per a company spokesperson. In response to the expanded warning on April 20, stores also removed products with full-leaf romaine sourced from Yuma.
“Romaine lettuce currently for sale in our stores is not from the Yuma region,” the spokesperson told Cooking Light via email. Albertsons stores include Jewel Osco, Safeway, Vons, Randalls, Pavilions, and other regional chains. (See full list of stores here.)
The Kroger Co.
“We pulled romaine lettuce potentially originating from Yuma,” Kristal Howard, head of corporate communications and media relations at The Kroger Co., told Cooking Light via email. “The products being sold in our stores are no longer from the Yuma region and we are communicating this message to our customers primarily through in-store signage.” Kroger stores include King Soopers, Ralphs, City Market, Harris Teeter, Food 4 Less, Owen’s Market and other regional chains. (See full list here.)
According to a TJ’s customer service rep, all the romaine carried in stores today—and since April 14, the day after the CDC’s first warning—is not being sourced from Yuma.
“We only have California-grown romaine in our stores at this point,” the rep told Cooking Light via email. “While we are not aware of any confirmed illnesses related to our romaine, and no Trader Joe's products have been implicated in the matter, we took the precautionary step of promptly removing any product from sale upon notification from the CDC of the potential to be affected.”
Per ALDI: “We’ve confirmed that all ALDI products with romaine lettuce that are currently for sale are not from the Yuma region and are therefore not part of the current CDC advisement.”
From Wegmans: "On Sunday, April 15, all of the chopped, whole and romaine hearts sold in our stores comes from growing areas other than Yuma, AZ. When the CDC/FDA issued the advisory about chopped romaine grown in Yuma on Friday, April 13, we removed any remaining product from our stores."
"We also have point-of-sale signs posted in our stores explaining that all our romaine is from growing areas other than Yuma," Tracy Van Auker, media relations at Wegmans, told Cooking Light via email.
The bottom line: Many major grocery stores are following CDC guidance in removing Yuma-grown romaine from their shelves. Still, due to the size and severity of the outbreak and the fact that the CDC’s investigation of the outbreak is ongoing, it may be best to avoid romaine altogether until further notice.
For the most up-to-date information and guidance on the outbreak, check the CDC’s E. coli information page.