ATLANTA -- Foodservice operators nationwide should immediately stop serving romaine lettuce in any form and throw away all unused supplies of the green because of possible E. coli contamination, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a bulletin issued Nov. 20.
The agency issued the alert after 32 people in 11 states were sickened by E. coli O157:H7, a potentially lethal form of the bacteria. Similar warnings were broadcast by a number of state health departments and the CDC’s counterpart in Canada, where 18 people have been sickened in two provinces.
The contaminations were believed to have occurred between Oct. 1-31. A widespread outbreak sometimes goes undetected for days or weeks because the cases are initially viewed as isolated incidents.
The warning extends to romaine in any form—whole head, chopped or mixed with other greens. It also applies to any brand or supplier.
The CDC noted that the “fingerprint” of the E. coli detected in recent weeks matches the DNA makeup of the version that was found in leafy greens in 2017, but not in the romaine lettuce that sickened about 200 people in April and May. Five people died in that outbreak.
That contamination was eventually traced to Yuma, Ariz., one of the nation’s major sources of romaine. Authorities said the E. coli had been found in the water of a canal serving the area. They were not able to determine how the pathogen got into the water.
The CDC issued an across-the-board warning against selling and eating romaine at that time.
The agency acknowledged that it is still learning about the scope and possible cause of the outbreak disclosed today.
CHICAGO -- Convenience stores need formal food-safety programs for millions of reasons, many of which operators are already familiar with, said Donna Hood Crecca, associate principal for data firm Technomic, during CSP’s C-Store Foodservice Forum in Chicago.
Perhaps a lesser-known case for crafting a culture of foodservice safety is employee engagement. “For the workers themselves, that makes them very invested in contributing for the quality and safety of product they put out,” Crecca said.
Here's a look at four ways c-stores are developing committed team members and reliable menu offerings by incorporating food safety into every level of their programs ...
Retailers recently have come to realize that no current c-store is a perfect model for food-safety practices; even the superpremium-tier chains want to improve their practices, said Jennifer Hutto, foodservice category manager for c-store distributor McLane Co. Inc., Temple, Texas. Retailers, distributors and suppliers need to make sure they are working together to execute these complicated foodservice procedures, Hutto said.
“We have to make sure we’re using all parties,” she said. “I hear suppliers say they’re willing to train employees on how to use their products, but I don’t often hear people taking them up on that.”
Streamlined communication with suppliers and distributors could also help circumvent food-safety issues. Trisha Transue, foodservice manager for retailer Top Star Inc., Emmaus, Pa., said she has developed a phenomenal working relationship with her food distributor representative by keeping the lines of communication wide open. “She said please copy me in whenever you talk to a supplier,” Transue said. “Just [copying] her on those communications has eliminated barriers. She’ll chime in on things I don’t think about.”
Photo courtesy of Aquir.
Creating a culture of food safety is a full-time job, Transue said. The Top Star team has trained its entire operations team to prioritize food safety. Even the foodservice team’s marketing leader picks up product and checks freshness dates, she said. To bring the whole team into the chain’s food-safety initiatives, Transue recommends finding a manager with a restaurant background. “If you don’t currently have a restaurant person running your food, I beg you find one,” she said. “We look at things very differently than our c-store counterparts. I look at food costs, not gross profit. We look at waste differently.”
C-store operator United Pacific formed about two years ago and is working on growing its foodservice program across its different brands. To do that, the retailer plans to recruit team members with foodservice backgrounds. “We really are going to focus on acquiring people from the [quick-service] segment to get more people who are familiar with food into our stores to help us ... focus on foodservice culture,” said Doug Hecker, vice president of marketing and operations for the Long Beach, Calif.-based chain.
Photo courtesy of Kondor83.
Sometimes it’s about perception when it comes to food safety, said Erica Ventura, operations manager for Top Star. When employees wash their hands in the bathroom and return to the line, Ventura asks them to wash their hands again. “I say, ‘Well, the customer wasn’t in the bathroom with you to see you wash your hands,’ ” she said. “You come back from the bathroom and you wash your hands.” At some of the chain’s units with Subway restaurants, there are soap dispensers on the counter to ensure team members are adequately washing their hands.
Photo courtesy of Sasiistock.
Retailer QuickChek Corp. has designated quality-assurance auditors to check the cleanliness of stores and ensure team members are following food-safety procedures. “We have auditors from operations backgrounds, so we have people who think the way our foodservice team does,” said Nicole Remo, associate category manager for the Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based chain.
Photo courtesy of Tashatuvango.