California Expected To Feel Economic Impact From Yuma Romaine Lettuce Recall

By Heather van Blokland
Published: Thursday, May 10, 2018 - 5:11pm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now tally 149 people in 29 states who have been sickened with E. coli from romaine lettuce grown in Yuma. The CDC is warning consumers to not buy or eat lettuce grown in the region, but it's California, not Arizona, that is impacted economically.

The outbreak began in March with illnesses first reported in late April, at the end of Yuma's lettuce growing season. From late November to mid-March, Arizona ships an average of 1 billion pounds of lettuce per month. In April and May, California takes over growing.

Paul Brierley is with the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture.

“Where it really hurts is all the crop that’s already been grown and ready for market and now there’s not much of a market for romaine. You know, consumers are staying away from it,” Brierley said.

And since the outbreak occurred at the end of Arizona’s growing season, Brierley said that means California producers are now bearing the brunt of the impact. Yuma County leads the nation in winter months for production at $930 million in sales each year. Romaine lettuce makes up the majority of sales at 40 percent.

Retail price of romaine lettuce
USDA AMS Specialty Crop Retail Price Report
Trends in the retail price of romaine lettuce and number of reporting stores from January-May 2018.

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