“It has been a major disaster for the whole business and the industry.”

Leafy greens from Arizona are now back on grocery store shelves after a widespread advisory decimated sales of romaine lettuce across Canada and the U.S.

Too little too late say some local business owners who say the recall was devastating.

Ester Sattler, President, and CEO of Fresh Mix Ltd. claims her livelihood was on the verge of disaster after the outbreak that she says was blown out of proportion.  Sattler’s business is 95 percent romaine processing.  The company distributes bagged, washed and ready-to-eat romaine to major retailers.

“It meant that we had a couple of hundred thousand pounds of raw material and over 100,000 pounds of processed material sitting in the plant.” 

Sattler expects to feel the pinch for many months, despite knowing that her product has gone through multiple testing to ensure it’s safe to eat.  She says the crisis will cost her half-a-million dollars in product.

Sattler’s business wasn’t alone.  Most major chains and independent grocers stopped selling romaine in response to fears of E. coli contaminated lettuce from California.

“It was definitely crisis-mode.  Grab product, get it off shelves, get it in the garbage as fast as possible,” says grocer Giancarlo Trimarchi.

Vince’s Market has seen sales of packaged salads drop by nearly 80 percent since the advisory, forcing a significant surge in prices for other products.

“It’s a supply and demand game.  It’s pure economics.  So, of course, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, Boston lettuce, iceberg lettuce, all of those prices shot through the roof,” explains Trimarchi.

There have been 24 confirmed cases of E. coli-related illnesses in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and British Columbia.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has put a restriction on imported romaine lettuce that was harvested in parts of California.