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Area restaurants adjust after CDC's warning about romaine lettuce

Posted at 4:22 PM, Nov 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 19:10:34-05

In response to the federal government’s warning, restaurants across Northeast Ohio tossed their romaine lettuce stock in the dumpster.

As millions of Americans prepare to sit down for Thanksgiving feasts, romaine lettuce should not be a part of the holiday spread, according to a new warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an E-coli outbreak has sickened more than 30 people across 11 states.

According to the CDC, a total of 32 people have been sickened or hospitalized as a result of the recent outbreak of E-coli. More than a dozen people in Canada have been sickened as well. All of the reported illnesses are tied to potentially contaminated romaine lettuce.

The Ohio Department of Health said a 22-year-old woman from Cuyahoga County is among those who were sickened.

For one Cleveland hotspot, the CDC’s warning comes at an especially bad time.

Upon hearing news of the CDC’s warning on Tuesday afternoon, Bridget McGinty, the owner of midtown’s lunch hotspot, Tastebuds, immediately had to get back to work.

“I fielded tons of phone calls. I had a feeling that something was terribly wrong,” McGinty said.

McGinty had several conversations with her business’ food purveyor, who offered to bring in green leaf lettuce, which isn’t affected by the CDC’s warning, by 5 p.m. on Wednesday morning. She also had to call in her food prep staff early. Then, there were several trips to the dumpster.

“Honest to God, I was angry because we had so much prepped here,” McGinty said. “We had gotten in a ton of extra lettuce because a lot of people pre-order their holiday salad to bring to their families. We had so much prepped. We can be reimbursed but we can only be reimbursed for the three cases we had [Tuesday].”

Everything that contained or even came into contact with romaine lettuce had to be thrown out. That included plastic ramekins, containers and salad mixes. McGinty estimates the value of the products that were thrown away to be in excess of $500. That doesn’t include the labor that went into making the prepared salads.

“Because salads are our thing here and because of the holiday, the timing of it is just crazy,” McGinty said.

Despite the losses, McGinty said she was not taking any chances, especially when it comes to customer safety.

“I can sleep with a clear conscious because everything is out in that dumpster,” McGinty said.