A string of high-profile produce recalls may lead to shortages of the most recent culprits ahead of the holidays. But, even if cauliflower and some lettuce varieties stay in stock, experts say consumers may be hesitant to serve these as part of a family meal.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced over the weekend a recall of certain cauliflower and lettuce products produced by California-based Adam Bros. Farming Inc. that were distributed in at least six provinces. There have been no reported illnesses associated with the wrapped cauliflower, and green leaf and red leaf lettuce that’s sold in bulk without a brand name.
Mike von Massow, associate professor at the University of Guelph, admits that in the winter, Canada’s supply of fresh fruit and vegetables tends to come from very specific areas. The farm in question likely represents a significant proportion of the total cauliflower and leafy greens arriving in Canada and stopping those imports could create a strain on supply, resulting in higher prices for what is safe and available ahead of the holidays.
Loblaw Companies Ltd., Empire Co. Ltd. and Metro Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they sold the farm’s products and whether they anticipate supply falling below demand.
Romaine lettuce, on the other hand, seems to be back in stock in at least some grocers’ stores after a recent recall that prompted many companies to temporarily stop selling the product. Empire, the parent company of Sobeys Inc., has now sourced romaine from an unaffected region and the product is back in stock, an executive said during a conference call with analysts last week.
There are alternatives for each of these items, of course, like swapping Brussels sprouts for cauliflower. However, folks tend to be highly traditional over the holidays and some dishes may demand specific ingredients.
“I think we’re definitely in a period of recall fatigue and there seems to be so many recalls of late that consumers are getting just confused and that’s a concern,” said Simon Somogyi, a professor at the University of Guelph who studies food consumer behavior. Canadians should be comforted by the fact that authorities have pinpointed the location of the most recent outbreak of cauliflower and leaf lettuce, he said.
But he wouldn’t be surprised if they’re cutting back on romaine consumption as a U.S.-Canadian investigation has yet to determine the source contamination for that outbreak.