Tue, Oct 10, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Retailers assure public of lettuce safety

TAINTED GOODS Leading domestic retailers said they do not import nor sell Foxy-branded green leaf lettuce, the subject of the latest `E. coli' vegetable scare in the US

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH BLOOMBERG

Local retailers hastened to assure consumers that lettuce sold in the country are safe as they have not imported any of the reportedly contaminated green leaf lettuce produced in the US.

Just as fears over E. coli-tainted US spinach were fading, news broke out yesterday that lettuce grown in California might also be contaminated by the deadly bacteria.

Nunes Co, which sells vegetables under the brand Foxy, said it voluntarily recalled a batch of green leaf lettuce grown in Salinas Valley, California, because of risks of E. coli contamination.

Nunes said that a secondary source of water used to irrigate the lettuce on one farm may have been contaminated with E. coli. That source was used temporarily, according to the statement.

In response, Carrefour Taiwan, the nation's largest hypermarket operator, said that Foxy is one of its suppliers but that it imports iceberg lettuce, not the green leaf variety.

"The farmlands used to grow iceberg and green leaf lettuce are different. But for the sake of consumer safety, we have asked our importers to conduct thorough checks and to submit a report," said Dream Lin (林夢紹), Carrefour's public relations manager.

As health concerns have been recently raised against US-grown ground beef, spinach and lettuce, Lin said the firm would step up examinations to ensure public safety.

Another hypermarket chain, Far Eastern Geant (愛買吉安), said it did not import any produce from Foxy.

The firm added that it plans to reduce import volumes of US vegetables and meat to avoid similar contamination scares, said Henry Yin (尹皓), a public relation assistant manager, without elaborating.

Other hypermarket operators like RT-Mart (大潤發) and Costco President Taiwan, as well as high-end supermarkets at Breeze Center (微風廣場), Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store (新光三越) and Jasons Market Place, said their product line-ups did not include Foxy-branded greens.

TGI Friday's (Taiwan) Inc also confirmed that its restaurants do not use green leaf lettuce.

Foxy is one of the US' largest suppliers of lettuce, celery, broccoli, vegetable platters and stir-fry mixes.

The lettuce suspected of bacteria contamination was sold in Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana between Oct. 3 and Oct. 6, Nunes said in a statement. No illnesses have been reported, it added.

About 200,000 lettuce heads were affected, according to Nunes. Foxy has recalled 8,500 cartons, of which 250 haven't been tracked down yet.

Last month, an E. coli outbreak spread through spinach grown in Salinas Valley, leaving three dead and 190 people ill. US officials declared the vegetable safe to eat again on Sept. 29 after a recall of contaminated spinach products.

Eating food contaminated by the bacterium may lead to dehydration, bloody diarrhea, kidney failure or death.

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