Buying Romaine? Look for the Harvest Location Label

Written by April Ward

Grocery stores, restaurants and lettuce producers have reacted quickly to remove romaine lettuce grown in Salinas from the supply chain channels to protect consumers. Romaine from growing areas other than Salinas is making its way back in to produce aisles and menus just in time for the holidays. But how can people be sure the romaine they are buying is not part of the recent advisory issued by public health agencies?

Over the past year, leafy greens producers in California an Arizona have been placing Harvest Location Labels on packages containing romaine lettuce to help consumers identify where product was grown. These stickers are something different than the address of the company responsible for packing the product that is usually printed on the back of packages and is required by law.

The Harvest Location Label can take a few different forms. Products like Romaine Hearts are often packaged right after harvest in the field. Their Harvest Location Label will look similar to these:

Examples of two labels on romaine lettuce packages.  One reads:  Harvested on 11.13.19, Grown in Yuma, AZ.  Another reads:  Grown in Imperial Vly, CA, Harvested on 11.21.19

Bagged salads are another popular way to buy Romaine lettuce. Romaine can be found washed and chopped by itself or in a blend with other leafy green vegetables. Harvest Location Labels on bagged product (also known as "value-added") are often printed on the front of the bag. Below are a few examples:

Romaine Harvest Location Labels for bagged salads.  Two are shown, the first states "romaine grown in Centrl Vly, Salinas" the second states "Romaine: Yuma, Phoenix, Salinas"

Consumers should look for Harvest Label Locations with the words: Yuma, Phoenix, Southern Arizona, Northern Arizona, Northern California, Santa Maria, Southern California, Imperial Valley, Coachella and Central Valley. They are all SAFE to eat. Romaine from other states and Mexico is also okay. And hydroponically and greenhouse grown romaine is fine to eat too.

If you are buying bulk romaine that is not in a package, ask your produce department personnel or waiter to confirm where the romaine is from.

A map of the official growing regions is shown below.

Please know that leafy greens farmers are doing all they can to prevent outbreaks like this from occurring and they are as frustrated as anyone that outbreaks continue to be associated with romaine. Romaine harvest in Salinas has stopped altogether and the entire produce industry is focused on learning everything we can about how this outbreak happened. We pledge take every possible action to prevent future illnesses.

Map of California shows lettuce growing regions and highlights the four counties in Salinas that consumers should not buy romaine lettuce from, they include:  Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey
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