What do truckers do when told to dump 15 truckloads of lettuce two days before Thanksgiving?
Massive disruptions to the transport of potentially tainted romaine lettuce occurred as 43 people in 12 states were sickened by a particularly dangerous strain of E. coli. This was the third such crisis to hit the romaine industry within the last 12 months.
Truckers working with Allen Lund Company eventually dumped tons of lettuce in landfills and dumps. Because the CDC could not immediately track the source of the contaminated lettuce, both retailers and truckers tossed out the good with the bad.
Eventually, the tainted romaine was traced to growers on the central California coast, but only after lettuce from many other places was thrown out or pulled from store shelves. In the meantime, the price for alternate varieties of lettuce rose quickly, as lettuce supplies contracted and many consumers looked for alternative greens.
Video Spotlight: Lettuce is Twice as Expensive, Thanks to Romaine E. coli Outbreak
This post is based on the Transport Topics article, Romaine Recall Causes Disruption in Trucking Industry, by Jim Stinson, December 3, 2018; and the Cooking Light video, Lettuce is Twice as Expensive, Thanks to Romaine E. coli Outbreak, by Zee Krstic, December 3, 2018. Image source: Ingram Publishing.
1. How do the actions of one grower affect others in the supply chain?
Guidance: Here, the actions of one as of yet unidentified grower caused massive disruptions, losses, and worries about lettuce in the romaine growing community and many others in the food supply chain.
Truckers, retailers, and countless growers who have carefully tended to the safety and quality of their produce have been negatively affected by the tainted lettuce of one farm. Supply chains link together many unrelated businesses and people, and the actions of one often can cause serious repercussions for everyone else.
If a restaurant unknowingly serves contaminated produce, customers may hold it liable. If a store unwittingly sells tainted food items, its name will appear in the headlines. The interconnectedness of the supply chain means that companies are unavoidably linked with others whose carelessness, mistakes, or lack of adequate safety precautions can bring down many others who in fact played no part in the error.
2. What actions does the CDC need to take for the future?
Guidance: Health officials along with growers and distributors are working to find ways to use technology and tracking techniques to better trace and quickly identify the source of future disease outbreaks in the lettuce industry. When the grower or processor of the tainted produce cannot be immediately identified, huge amounts of food waste occur as good products are thrown out with the bad.