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SLO restaurants turn to Romaine alternatives amid E-coli scare

Posted at 11:45 PM, Nov 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-26 08:53:16-05

The outbreak of E-coli linked to romaine lettuce on the Central Coast is forcing San Luis Obispo restaurants to make some changes to their menus.

“The first thing we want do is give people safe, wholesome food that tastes good,” Big Sky Cafe Owner Gregory Holt said.

That’s been the motto of Big Sky Cafe since its inception, but now with the threat of E-coli contaminated romaine lettuce, it’s more important than ever.

“Boy, caesar salad made with iceberg lettuce just doesn’t have the same pop,” Holt said. “But it’s better to serve the right food and fresh food and maybe it’s not exactly perfect, sometimes you have to make carefully considered substitutions.”

Holt said romaine, sourced from local producers, is a key ingredient in just about every salad served at the Cafe.

But after a recent E-coli outbreak sickened dozens and killed at least one person, the FDA is warning everyone not to eat romaine.

“If you have it in your home, throw it away,” Laura Gieraltowski, a member of the CDC Foodbourne Illness Outbreak Response Team, said. “If you go to the store to do some shopping, make sure you’re not buying any romaine.”

That’s important advice because while investigators track down the source of the outbreak, the problematic produce could already be in people’s fridges.

“Every minute and every hour they’re waiting to find the source, that is more time the consumers could be eating the product and getting expose,” Center for Science Deputy Director Sara Sorscher said.

Illness linked to the tainted romaine has now been identified in 11 states.

Contamination results in diahrea and dehydration, with severe cases resulting in kidney failure that can cause death.

While investigators work to pinpoint the exact source of the contamination, officials say they believe it originated somewhere on the Central Coast.

Whole Foods, Vons and Ralphs in San Luis Obipo have pulled romaine lettuce from their shelves.

SLO Brew also said it is substituting gem lettuce for romaine until the issue is resolved.