In just a half hour after receiving an email about the romaine outbreak, Iowa State Dining immediately responded by throwing out the leafy green and notifying student managers from all 24 food stores and dining locations.
Four Midwestern states reported cases of E. coli amid the recent romaine outbreak, with Michigan the highest of the four. With no reported cases in Iowa, ISU Dining did not take the risk and acted immediately. After two weeks of a romaine substitute, ISU Dining will go back to serving romaine Wednesday.
Jennifer Beem, food safety/quality assurance manager at ISU Dining, said that after receiving an email from the director concerning the romaine advisory, she immediately responded.
“I went with safer than sorry,” Beem said. “I saw what the [Center for Disease and Control] CDC was saying, and I said, 'nope, let’s dispose of all of it.'”
Luckily for students and ISU Dining, all happened during fall break on Nov. 20 and 21 with only two food stores being open at the time. When student assistant managers returned from break, romaine was no longer an option to order.
As the rest of students returned from break, an arcadian blend, which contains no iceberg or romaine, was a substitute in sandwiches, salads and other recipes from the commissary kitchen. Although more expensive, Beem wanted to keep options open for all students.
Beem and Brittney Rutherford, marketing communications coordinator at ISU Dining, understand the importance of keeping students safe. Rutherford recalled a time during a listeria outbreak while she was pregnant a few years ago.
“Cantaloupe got recalled and I ate it that day from one of our facilities,” Rutherford said. “I came down and talked to the produce manager and they told me exactly where it came from and that it was not affected. You want to stay safe and knowing our staff knows that is reassuring that they are doing everything to keep people safe.”
Beem said the CDC announced it was safe to distribute romaine, bringing it back to Iowa State’s menus across campus. On Wednesday students should expect to see Caesar salads and sandwiches containing romaine back on shelves.
Beem assured that romaine will be safe for consumption based on the steps it takes to receive the lettuce. Since manufacturers are receiving permission to produce romaine again, then heading off to distributors, consumers at Iowa State can feel confident about their food.
“Now that it’s been released, we’re farther down the chain in the safety net,” Beem said.
Rutherford and Beem said food already made with the arcadian blend will not be tossed once romaine hits the shelves again.
“We’re not going to discard products just to discard it just because the menu doesn’t say romaine on it, we’ll work through that,” Rutherford said.