Thanks to a recent outbreak of E. Coli, the CDC has issued a recall on romaine lettuce. Anyone who has romaine lettuce in their fridge–including restaurants–is advised to throw out the lettuce immediately, even if people have already eaten from this supply of romaine and didn’t get sick. What does this mean for your restaurant? How do you respond–especially in light of the fast-approaching holiday season?
“A recall of this magnitude especially during the holiday week will impact not only romaine, but other leafy green vegetables such as spinach. Retailers will be pulling romaine and possibly all other lettuce/leafy greens from their shelves (a process called quarantining) until the source is found,” says Michael Droke, a partner at international law firm Dorsey and Whitney. That can put a serious damper on your holiday plans! The E. Coli outbreak, which has been linked back to romaine lettuce but hasn’t entirely been identified yet, can have a serious impact on your restaurant’s holiday plans so make sure you begin planning ahead now.
Responding to the Recall
When a food is recalled, especially in mass quantities, it can leave you scrambling. As a restaurant, there are several steps you need to take immediately.
Throw out potentially impacted food. There’s no way to test for E. Coli in your personal supply of romaine. Even if no one has gotten sick from consuming it yet, it could still happen–and you don’t want that linked back to your restaurant. Don’t forget about mixed bags of salad or other products that could contain romaine.
Take items containing romaine off the menu for the time being. Until the source of the outbreak has been fully identified, it’s important not to risk serving these items to your customers. Offer alternatives instead–even if you have to get creative or offer a new dish.
Scrub drawers and crispers that contained romaine or other impacted foods. Make sure that you thoroughly clean any area that could have been impacted. This may also include cutting counters and other food prep areas.
Notify customers. As a restaurant, you have a duty to notify customers that romaine is temporarily off the menu and tell them why. You may want to post notices and ask servers and hosts to remind customers as they are seated.
Dealing with food recalls can be challenging, but when you’re prepared, your restaurant can act quickly to help prevent your customers from getting sick. React fast to remove any potentially contaminated food from your restaurant.