What To Prepare For Dinner At Home - A Salad? An Omelet? Maybe Not When E. Coli & Salmonella Is At Risk

Two East Coast Companies Announce Food Recalls

Thinking about fixing a salad at home today using that ready-to-eat salad mix you bought at the grocery store?  If so, and you live in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania or West Virginia, you should go to your fridge and check to see if the mix contains romaine lettuce.  As of April 14, 2018, Fresh Food Manufacturing Co., based in Pennsylvania, was recalling some 8,700 pounds of prepackaged salad mix products labeled "Great to Go by Market District" that were shipped to retailers in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia and had sell-by dates of April 13 to April 16, 2018. The romaine lettuce in the products may have been contaminated with Escherichia coli (E.coli).

Even if you don't live in one of these 4 states, that salad still might not be a good idea.  On April 13, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration warned of another E. coli-related illness outbreak that began in mid-March and that may be caused by bagged and pre-chopped romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona, area and distributed to retailers across the country.  (Yuma is the nation's largest supplier of winter greens such as lettuce, cabbage, spinach, kale, and spring mix.)  At last report, the FDA had not yet identified the growers, suppliers and distributors of any of this contaminated lettuce.  The outbreak had resulted in 35 people from 11 states becoming ill.

On April 13, 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned the public to stay away from chopped romaine lettuce, stating: "Consumers anywhere in the United States who have store-bought chopped romaine lettuce at home, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away," The CDC also advised restaurants not to serve, and stores not to sell chopped romaine lettuce unless it could be confirmed as not grown in the Yuma growing region.

As Mom used to say, "better to be safe than sorry."  The E.coli bacteria emit a toxin which causes illness that is typically limited in terms of both symptoms (diarrhea and abdominal cramping) and duration (up to a week). However, in some cases severe illness, including kidney failure, can result.

So you go to the fridge and decide against using that pre-packaged salad mix, but you do have eggs, and an omelet sounds good. You might also want to rethink this menu option.  As of April 15, 2018, nearly 207 million eggs had been recalled because of fear that they may have been contaminated with salmonella, another type of bacteria that causes serious illnesses and deaths, particularly among children and the elderly.  At last report 22 people on the East Coast had become ill.

The contaminated eggs have been traced to a North Carolina facility owned and operated by Rose Acre Farms which produces 2.3 million eggs a day and distributes them to retail stores and restaurants in nine states - Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.  The recalled eggs were sold under brand names such as Great Value, Country Daybreak, Crystal Farms, Food Lion, Nelms, Coburn Farms, Sunshine Farms, and Glenview.  Reportedly, this egg recall is the largest since 2010, when a major salmonella outbreak tied to Iowa egg farms resulted in more than 1,500 people becoming ill. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths every year in the U.S. 

Fresh Food Manufacturing Co., Rose Acre Farms, and the other food suppliers linked to these foodborne illness situations are now facing the substantial costs of recalling the products and offering replacement products or refunds, working with federal, state and local officials regarding investigation and confirmation of the source of the contamination and the remedy, and of the personal injury suits which are likely to be filed.  As to how to pay these costs, the supplier should look further down the chain of supply of the food to see who might be responsible for the contamination, and then determine whether the supplier could have the benefit of an indemnity/hold harmless agreement entered into with the responsible party or was added as an additional insured on applicable insurance maintained by the responsible party. The supplier should also look at its own first party loss and third party liability insurance policies. The supplier may have some type of product recall, withdrawal, and/or contamination coverage, coverage which typically applies to accidental contamination situations and affords some coverage for the insured’s costs incurred regarding the recall, income replacement, product testing and destruction, and brand rehabilitation and public relations.