Indoor Farmers Romaine Calm After E. Coli Outbreak
With the romaine being pulled out of the shops and the product receiving some very bad publicity due to the recent E.coli contamination, greenhouse growers throughout the US and Canada are opening up to show the public what solution they can bring to food safety.
Gotham Greens responds quickly. Only recently they've expanded into romaine lettuce. In doing so they wanted to offer a more reliable, transparent and traceable supply chain.
"Situations like this remind us why traceability and transparency are so important in our food system", they respond. "We’ve seen today’s CDC report and while they have issued a blanket warning on all romaine lettuce, our internal environmental testing program shows NO E. coli in any of our greenhouse facilities. All of our lettuces, salad mixes and herbs, including Romaine, are grown, harvested and packed daily in controlled greenhouses in New York and Chicago. We only sell greens that we grow ourselves so we can assure 100% traceability. And through our water monitoring program we can guarantee that the water used to nourish our plants is free of harmful pathogens. Our hydroponic growing methods use municipal water and sterile agricultural inputs, reducing sources of contamination."
It’s also why Revol is working with the industry’s lobby to ask federal regulators to exempt indoor grown lettuce from the recall. Arguing that unlike field-raised crops, their romaine lettuce is never exposed to possible contamination sources from birds or animals.
Amongst customers, the story has landed for sure - the phone at Revol has been ringing non stop. "We can of course supply clients with mixes or products without Romaine, but we currently also have people asking specifically for our Romaine lettuce, since they know our produce is safe."
The demand from the food service is very high. Since Revol is operating local and can adjust easily, they try to help as many customers out - especially since Thanksgiving puts pressure on the hospitality and food service industry.
Also BrightFarms, growing in Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, made a statement, showing how indoor farming can benefit the industry. "All of BrightFarms' products, including our romaine lettuce, are safe to eat and are NOT associated with the CDC's investigation into an unfortunate outbreak of illness."
"Our salad greens and herbs are grown inside of local greenhouse farms, a controlled indoor environment, which allows for clean, safe, and pesticide free produce. We're proud that our model allows for complete traceability to a local farm (and farmer!) in your community."
lēf Farms from Loudon shows the public a video of their farm on social media. "Rest assured, our lettuce is safe to eat because our hands-free operation delivers nothing but clean and tasty greens grown right here in NH. So, in this season of thankfulness, you can be thankful for a local grower who cares about your health. And we, in turn, can be thankful for the ongoing support from customers like you."
Then there's Go Green Agriculture. After Tuesday's email, many buyers told him not to send any romaine lettuce and “trucks should be turned around immediately; everything’s being dumped and destroyed on site.” He explains to 10News why the indoor farming technologies “pretty much guarantees that everything is 100 percent safe."
Also the Alberta-based company Inspired Greens is responding to the situation. "Our A$60 million investment into the world’s most innovative greenhouse technology was based on a fundamental premise: clean means clean", they explain. The company offers greenhouse-grown lettuce varieties grown with triple-filtrated water in a closed, environmentally safe and secure environment.
“Retailers and consumers have a heightened awareness of food safety, quality and taste,” said David Karwacki, Chief Executive Officer of The Star Group of Companies, which built the Inspired Greens greenhouses. “We invested this cutting-edge clean technology to ensure we can unequivocally deliver clean, fresh, healthy lettuce with no concerns about contamination.”
The Inspired Greens greenhouses opened in Coaldale, AB, in June 2017 and can produce up to 12 million heads annually. It is the first North American greenhouse to use this advanced technology, with plants untouched by human hands from seed to harvest. In April 2018, Inspired Greens announced plans to double its production capacity based on strong industry and consumer demand.
Crop One Holdings
Crop One Holdings, known for its FreshBox Farms brand, also informs its customers their food is safe. However, they are voluntarily complying with the CDC’s Food Safety Alert. "Even though we believe that the CDC warning regarding potential E. coli contamination of romaine lettuce does not apply to FreshBox Farms’ romaine lettuce and other leafy greens grown using our unique controlled indoor farming systems."
“Yesterday’s warning by the CDC is a wise precaution and certainly in the best interest of the public,” said Dr. Deane Falcone, Chief Scientific Officer of Crop One Holdings. “That said, we feel FreshBox Farms’ customers should know that our produce is grown in controlled, tightly-sealed environments with filtered air and water, and our plants are never touched by more than three gloved and gowned individuals. This distinctive indoor production method protects our produce from potential pathogens found in water, soil, or fecal matter, which are the typical causes of E. coli outbreaks.”
Some indoor farms took to social media to assure consumers that their Romaine was safe to eat.
Doef’s Greenhouses tweeted “In case you’re wondering, our #Romaine is not part of the recent recall. We will continue to bring fresh products to our markets this weekend and you do not have to throw our #Romaine out of your fridge #knowyourfarmer”