South Jersey Farmers and Distributors Promising Safe Romaine Lettuce Despite Nationwide Concerns

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The recent E.coli outbreak has left many people around the country concerned about purchasing and consuming romaine lettuce. The outbreak was in Arizona, but farmers in South Jersey are feeling the impact during a very important time for business.

“The greatest misconception right now is that Romaine is not safe to eat," said Landisville Produce Growers Co-Op General Manager, Felix Donato. "No matter how small the sample may have been coming from the West Coast, it seems to have impugned all of Romaine lettuce.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), back in late March, E.coli-tainted romaine lettuce from Arizona sickened about 150 people, killing one. The CDC says that it's unclear if there could be other sources still on the shelves.

“An outbreak of a food-born pathogen has long-reaching effects as far as litigation," said Donato. "So, people are very cautious to let people know that there may be a problem with this lettuce."

But the co-owner of Hensel Farms in Milmay, Eric Hensel, is saying that you don’t have to worry about E.coli if you're getting your lettuce from New Jersey, partially because of how it’s grown.

“A lot of the western lettuce is grown is deserts and water is basically canaled in through canals and in those canals, there’s the possibility of animals living there and that’s all you really need is something to contaminate the water and it’s a possibility it could contaminate the lettuce," said Hensel. 

Hensel says that pretty much the entire East Coast is irrigated with well-water, which is tested multiple times a year. 

"So, that really eliminates the possibly of E.coli or any such dangerous bacteria getting into the lettuce," said Hensel.

Donato says finding out if the lettuce is local is simple. Typically, retailers identify the grower on their display, but if not, it's recommended that the consumer simply asks the retailer. Like many other growers, every box sent by Hensel Farms has their name on it, and every box has a unique identification code as well.

"It’s fresh, it’s beautiful, it’s ready to eat. Get out and please support your local farmer," said Hensel. 

No matter where the lettuce is purchased in South Jersey, Hensel says it's going to be safe.

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