State says locally grown romaine lettuce OK

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The source of the E. Coli outbreak in romaine lettuce is likely from California. That’s the latest update from the FDA. While Hawaii farmers say local lettuce is in the clear we find out how the nationwide recall has impacted them. 

We spoke to experts in the industry who tell us the state stepped in at the right time to calm our nerves about lettuce grown in Hawaii. It’s really the lettuce from the mainland you need to watch out for.

Farmers tell us the state Department of Health put out a notice that local lettuce from Hawaii is not linked to the E. Coli outbreak. That statement has saved many farmers like Dan Ching, Farm Manager of Ili’ili Farms in Waianae. 

“Customers that we sell to they specifically buy products locally and they haven’t had any problems with the romaine so far,” said Ching, who has seen no impacts. 

“If you can find out if it’s locally grown, I would not hesitate to buy it at all,” said Dean Okimoto, Chair of Hawaii Agricultural Foundation. 

Okimoto says some restaurants in Hawaii are getting orders from corporate to stop serving romaine completely. 

“A lot of them are mainland chain restaurants. It’s coming from corporate: don’t buy. So it’s across the board, across the nation people are not buying it,” said Okimoto. 

The question also becomes will consumers eat it even if the lettuce is safe?

“There are some farms on the mainland that I’ve heard that put out statements guaranteeing that the product is safe too, but generally people are not going to listen to that. They hear romaine recall. E. Coli contamination. They are just not going to buy, but I’d find out where it’s grown,” said Okimoto.

All farmers agree, it doesn’t matter if it’s local or imported, when you buy produce make sure you properly wash it. Ching goes as far as suggesting to wash and sanitize any kind of lettuce. 

“You can just rinse it in vinegar and water. That will kill the bacteria,” said Ching. 

People had to be hospitalized in several states after getting sick. There are no reports of anyone falling ill from Hawaii. 
 

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