KAPAA — Contrary to the recommendations by health officials, Earl Kashiwagi of Esaki’s Produce said the romaine lettuce being brought in by the biggest produce wholesaler on the island is pretty safe to eat.
“One of the good things about living in Hawaii is that by the time we eat something, there are people on the mainland who have been eating it for 10 days,” Kashiwagi said. “If they aren’t ill from eating it, we’re pretty safe.”
Health officials in the United States and Canada told people Tuesday to stop eating romaine lettuce because of a new E. coli outbreak that has sickened 32 people in 11 states, and 18 people in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, Canada, states an Associated Press story.
Many local stores, including Times, Safeway and Costco, and restaurants stopping selling romaine Tuesday.
“We’ve had customers calling since the story broke around lunchtime,” Kashiwagi said. “There are stores that actually pulled the romaine off shelves. We’ve had restaurants calling about the safety of the lettuce. But, once the certification letter was produced, the products became available.”
Kashiwagi said Esaki’s has a certification letter from its primary supplier, Tanimura &Antle farms in California, outlining the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advisory regarding the possible contamination of all types of romaine lettuce with E. coli. The letter states that there is no indication Tanimura &Antle romaine is linked as a source in the investigation, and has not initiated a recall of romaine lettuce products.
He added that Esaki’s also works with local farmers that haven’t been involved in any recall.
Kashiwagi said it’s more than just living with programs and food safety.
“We gotta live with our conscience, too,” he said. “We don’t want anyone to get sick.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.