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What a year for Lettuce! As you may have heard, there was an outbreak of contaminated lettuce this year carried first in romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona fields and most recently in the salads of a major fast-food chain. Fortunately, all of the affected lettuce is out of grocery stores and the fast food chain has switched its supplier. But it still makes us all scratch our heads and wonder, is romaine safe to eat?
What Our Farmers Are Doing
It’s a very scary thing, to think that the food you eat might make you sick! But the local growers we spoke to follow the highest safety standards when growing their produce. James Sharp from Fresh-Pik Produce, Glen & Dustin Lang from LL Urban Farms, and Jedd Koehn from Coastal Plains Produce are just a few of lettuce growers who we work with at The Produce Box. All of our them are G.A.P. (Good Agricultural Practices) certified. This means their farms go through a voluntary audit and are held to the safety standards set by the USFDA. All of the lettuce they sell goes through this rigorous inspection.
As another safety measure, these local farmers use closed irrigation to water their lettuce crops. The water goes through pipes closed to the soil and roots so they can filter out any bacteria and not let it get to the leaves or fruit of the plant. This is much safer than open irrigation where water is sprayed directly onto the leaves without filtration. With the closed irrigation system, farmers use the earth to keep your food safe.
It has been amazing to watch how our farmers not only prioritize safety, but they prioritize your family too. In the past few weeks and months, our local farmers could have made a lot of money shipping their lettuce out West where it was in short supply because of the Yuma outbreak. But instead these farmers have made members of The Produce Box their first priority, making sure we have enough lettuce for our Boxes each week.
What You Can Do
In addition to buying local, another way you can keep your family safe from infection is to buy whole lettuces instead of those chopped up in a bag. While lettuce is inside the bag, bacteria grows in the moist environment. And if it’s being shipped across the country to a grocery store, it just has more time to multiply and become stronger. A whole head of lettuce from a local farm is much less hospitable to dangerous bacteria. Plus bacteria has far less time to accumulate when it goes from a local farmer’s field to your table!
As we’ve grown over the years and started working with more and more farmers, it is still so important to us to visit every local farmer, shake the hand that feeds our members and be sure that they are following safe and sustainable growing practices. We hope this puts your mind at ease as much as it does ours. To support local and join our community of members, sign up for The Produce Box today!