5C dining halls respond to romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak

A cautionary sign regarding romaine lettuce was posted at McConnell Dining Hall salad bar Nov. 30. (Jaimie Ding • The Student Life)

Dining halls at the Claremont Colleges acted promptly in removing romaine lettuce during the recent E. coli outbreak earlier this October.

Forty-three people have fallen ill from the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 linked to romaine lettuce from the Central Coastal growing regions in northern and central California, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The outbreak has become a threat in the United States and Canada.

Pomona College Dining Services receives vendor notifications and CDC notifications regarding food products, and “decided to pull out all romaine lettuce in this case,” General Manager Jose Martinez explained in an email to TSL.

After receiving the notifications, romaine lettuce was removed in the middle of lunch service. Martinez personally checked to make sure all staff were notified and “all romaine was put away [and] discarded.”

Martinez said Pomona is attempting to source romaine from Arizona, which is safe to eat, and ensuring that until then, the dining halls are free of romaine. He said romaine may be introduced when dining services are notified by their produce vendor that romaine is safe to eat, and the “growing region is clear from any possible outbreak,” noting that “safety is priority.”

At Pitzer College’s McConnell Dining Hall, all employees were issued a “product suspension” alert by their parent company’s Quality Assurance Red Alert team at approximately 1 p.m. Nov. 20, General Manager Cindy Bennington wrote in an email to TSL.  

This was followed by an alert from Bon Appétit, Pitzer’s dining management company. Workers in the dining hall removed and discarded all romaine from all food service and preparation areas at McConnell.

No romaine has been served or purchased since it was discarded Nov. 20, Bennington wrote. Other lettuces are currently being substituted for romaine.

Bennington wrote that romaine will be reintroduced when the corporate purchasing team is able to clear the vegetable using source and harvest date labels that will be checked upon delivery. Bennington estimates that romaine will be reintroduced next week.

Harvey Mudd College’s Hoch-Shanahan Dining Hall immediately removed all romaine lettuce when they received notice from its Food Safety Division as well as the Los Angeles County Department of Health, HMC spokesperson Judy Augsburger wrote in an email to TSL.

As an added precaution, we washed, rinsed and sanitized all surfaces and storage containers that may have come in contact with the product,” she wrote. The Hoch-Shanahan will not reintroduce romaine lettuce until they are given clearance to do so.

Both Claremont McKenna College’s Collins Dining Hall and Scripps College’s Malott Dining Hall could not be reached for comment before press time. Malott and the Hoch-Shanahan are both managed by Sodexo, and Collins and McConnell are both managed by Bon Appétit.

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