Susie and Tim Giesbrecht, owners of Giezy’s Kitchen in Penhold, say an E. coli outbreak in eastern Canada due to contaminated romaine lettuce has impacted their restaurant. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)

Romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak hampers Central Alberta restaurants

An E. coli outbreak in Eastern Canada and the United States caused by contaminated romaine lettuce is hampering Central Alberta restaurants.

Susie Giesbrecht, who owns Giezy’s Kitchen in Penhold with her husband Tim, said the restaurant recently ran out of romaine lettuce and has struggled to find an affordable replacement.

“We can no longer sell our salads,” she said. “The romaine lettuce we did find was insanely priced and (the price of) other types of lettuce has been upped. … I went on a lettuce hunt trying to find any lettuce, whether that be leaf lettuce or head lettuce, and stores wanted four to five dollars a head. Typically, it’s less than two.”

The restaurant’s usual supplier has run out of lettuce, she added.

Michael Tong, owner/operator of Ricky’s All Day Grill in Red Deer, said all the chain’s restaurants have stopped serving romaine lettuce.

“We do this as a precaution,” he said. “We don’t want anyone to get sick.”

Tong said many people know about the outbreak.

“Most of our customers understand and they try something else. It’s not a major issue for us so far,” he said.

Susie Giesbrecht said she believes restaurants everywhere are being affected by the outbreak.

“There are people with food allergies and stuff like that, and some restaurants may not have other options on the menu.

“A tremendous amount of our customers have gluten allergies or are celiac,” she said. “I’m celiac, my daughter’s celiac, so I know at some places the only option is salad. Here, thankfully, we have some other options.”

Her husband said the situation is “frustrating” because a lot of people order salads at the restaurant.

“A lot of people like to eat salads instead of fries because they want to make a healthier choice, or they just can’t eat certain things.

“We had a lady here this afternoon walk out because she wanted a salad,” he said.

Since mid-October, there have been 22 confirmed E. coli cases in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

The federal government is advising the food industry not to import romaine lettuce from areas in the U.S. suspected of producing lettuce contaminated with E. coli.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it will take steps to make sure products from areas identified by the American Food and Drug Administration are not being allowed into Canada.

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