Lettuce E.coli concerns gives business boost to small Bay Area farmers

ByKristen Sze and Brandon Behle via KGO logo
Wednesday, November 28, 2018
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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As the food industry scrambles to deal with the latest E.coli scare involving romaine lettuce, one Bay Area group is actually cashing in: small local farmers.

ABC7 News went to the San Francisco Ferry building farmers market on Tuesday.

RELATED: US health officials say it's OK to eat some California romaine lettuce again after E.coli outbreak

Several vendors there reported seeing a jump in business and awareness after the latest recall was announced just before Thanksgiving.

The farmers said that the boost was due to two factors.

The first was psychological: people told them felt they felt safer buying their produce from smaller farms, like those featured in farmers markets, because they got to meet and know the person that grew the food face-to-face.

The second was a competitive advantage: the farmers grow and carry different varieties of lettuce than the big grocery stores and those varieties were not recalled.

RELATED: Tainted romaine 'very likely' came from Monterey County, official say

Safeway told ABC 7 News on Tuesday that it is starting to bring back romaine as it becomes available.

They said they are not taking any of it from the Central and Northern Coast of California, where the latest outbreak is believed to have originated.

The Food and Drug administration announced on Monday that romaine lettuce on the market right now, is not likely to be parted of the tainted recall, since the growing season in Northern and Central California recently ended.

Romaine that will start appearing in stores is being harvested in Southern California near Yuma, Arizona.

RELATED: E. coli outbreak 2018: Symptoms, prevention and other things to know about E. coli

In an effort to better track future foodborne illnesses, the United Fresh Produce Association put a memo advising growers, packers and retailers on labeling their crops.

They say the label should be visible at the point of sale, and will be the new normal.

The Ferry building vendors, including Rudy Jiminez of Salinas' Green Thumb Organics Farm were in favor of the change.

"I think that's a great idea. It's part of some of the policy already coming forward in farming, making sure what section is harvested at what time, making sure they're washing it at a proper time before they cut it, so we don't create the bacteria and we don't have control over it."

RELATED: Bay Area Ag officials consider possible impacts of E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce