We know that Wendy’s knows, but is not yet saying – they will eventually and I continue to sue them. It is also possible the FDA knows, but also is not saying – yet.

I am not that far behind.

Well, we know from Wendy’s and the FDA that the likely E. coli-tainted product is the Hybrid Romaine and Iceberg Lettuce that came from ____________.

Not knowing ____________ reminded me of a story.  

After 30 years of doing this work, I have lots of stories.

Shortly after Labor Day 2006, as the Dole baby spinach E. coli outbreak was blowing up (eventually, 205 sick with dozens with kidney failure and with 5 deaths), I drove from San Francisco to Salinas looking for where the baby spinach was grown.  Like now, this time of year the “salad bowl of America” shifts to the greater Salinas Valley.  After hitting a few Salinas bars, I found the residents of Salinas more than willing to throw a neighboring community, San Juan Bautista, under the E. coli bus. “Go there, it wasn’t us” was the constant refrain as I paid the tab.

San Juan Bautista was not a far drive, but a drive well back in time, to when this area of California was part of greater Mexico.  The town has an old Mission that dates to the 1700’s.  The Mission has a field next to it that is an unmarked grave for several thousand native Americans.

Sitting in yet another bar with an open tab (sensing a theme here), I was quickly directed to a farm on the outskirts of town where a few FDA vans were pulled up – BINGO!

The 2006 Dole baby spinach outbreak started on a 20-acre parcel “in transition” to organic that was harvested in one day and sent to a processor that bagged the spinach for Dole.  Although the actual cause of the outbreak remains somewhat a mystery, a few wild pigs and some neighboring grass-fed cows were the most likely culprits.  

This 2006 outbreak was supposed to be the lettuce industries “Jack-in-the-Box” – “its 911.”  

But here we are again, and again, and again.

So, to the internet I go.  So far, the only two companies I have found that do produce the Hybrid Romaine and Iceberg Lettuce is Tanimura and Antle and Mann’s.  However, my guess is there are others.  I reached out to contacts over the last 20 years about what I found, and then I got this email:

My understanding is that it’s not that consistent, but I haven’t really worked with Wendy’s much. They always seem to be represented at many of the industry meetings but at least in my experience don’t tend to say much or interact much. Those two are certainly possible but I believe that both Taylor Farms and Church Bros/ True Leaf have at least in the past – possibly currently. Although if FDA has turned its focus on to Santa Maria, then other commodity companies like Tanimura and Antle might be the suppliers… But I don’t actually know…

It may not be any of the above. 

Seems like I may be heading to a Salinas bar – drinks on me!

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