May 29, 2019E. coli outbreak still impacting New Jersey lettuce growers
Growers in New Jersey say they are still feeling the effects of two recalls due to the discovery of E.coli, even though the bacteria strain was discovered on lettuce from farms in California and Arizona.
According to a story in NewJersey.com, romaine lettuce growers in the Garden State say they’re strugging to sell the crop and it had nothing to do with them — and more to do with consumers.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a food safety alert, telling consumers to throw away all Romaine lettuce, no matter where it was grown.
According to the story,:
Alex Dragotta, the host of “The Alex Dragotta Hour,” a farm-centric radio show on 92.1 in Vineland, said he has talked to many of the farmers in Cumberland County who said they are experiencing troubles selling the green vegetable. Dragotta told NJ Advance Media one story of what a farmer has experienced.
“Two days ago, a farmer told me a guy from Delaware who is a big buyer of his Romaine came to his farm and told him he is not buying it because he is scared there will be another Romaine scare. For some reason, there is a stigma that New Jersey lettuce is no good.”
Last year’s outbreak and recall also affected Dragotta’s girlfriend, who was a lettuce farmer.
“Part of the reason she went under was that she sold a lot of Romaine,” Dragotta stated. “The people she sold to did not pay her, and then, on top of that, they charged her to dispose of the unused lettuce.”
The farmers and New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher are trying to get rid of the stigma.
Fisher said the state has expanded its “Jersey Fresh” marketing on all of its platforms and highlighted the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program, a designation that the products with the “Jersey Fresh” logo have been inspected and meet the highest quality standards for produce.
“People know that it has great visibility in this state and surrounding states,” Fisher said. “It has the same ranking in terms of the knowledge of its existence as other national brands. It is a confidence issue, and we know that people can buy with confidence.”
Photo at top: From left, Landisville Cooperative General Manager Felix Donato, Secretary Fisher, Ed Curcio of Twin State Farms, John Formisano of Formisano Farms and Buena Boro Council President Rosalie Baker each holding romaine lettuce and other varieties of Jersey Fresh leafy greens.