Romaine endures painful puns, but how fast will demand recover?

Romaine endures painful puns, but how fast will demand recover?


How quickly will romaine rebound?

I talked to one Chicago wholesaler today who said he believes romaine demand will soon return to normal after the short-lived federal advisory against consumption recedes in the rear-view mirror.

Now that romaine from Arizona and growing districts outside of six countries in California has the green light, the optimistic view is that people have short memories and start to purchase as they always have. 

One West Coast supplier of salad packs said he heard that romaine prices on Nov. 28 were as high as $50 per carton, indicating no shortage of demand.

Romaine better be resilient, since it has become a punchline in social media. The Food and Drug Administration and the fresh produce industry are strictly sober when it comes to the E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, but not so with the rest of the web.

You may have seen these puns on Twitter:

  • “Romaine calm.” 
  • “The romaine empire has fallen. Caesar is dead. Lettuce pray.”
  • “Right now chocolate is good for you and romaine lettuce can kill you: I’ve been training my whole life for this moment.

Here is a funny tweet from Bill Corbett, as noted by

Dated Nov. 21, “Felt good to take a break from news yesterday. Now to sit down to my favorite breakfast, a huge bowl of romaine lettuce.”

Of course, other social media posters celebrated their edgy lives by stating they ate romaine and stared down possibly fatal effects. Others lamented that romaine gets banned for causing dozens of illnesses while guns, well you know.... 

If not for the Goliath steer in Australia, romaine might have received even more shade on social media.

The fastest rising Google searches related to romaine lettuce in the past week are:

  1. The romaine empire has fallen +4,400%;
  2. When will romaine lettuce be available +2,950%;
  3. Ecoli virus symptoms +2,600%; and  
  4.  When will romaine be back +2,500%.

Google Trends reports that three of the top five romaine- related searches in the past five years have included the term “recall.” That isn’t good.

Check out today’s latest coverage in The Packer by Chris Koger and Ashley Nickle:

FDA names California counties involved in romaine/E. coli hunt and Who takes the loss on romaine that got tossed? It’s complicated

Check out Scott Horsfall’s opinion piece in USA Today. : Romaine lettuce farmers and your trust

Other coverage in the consumer press:

Certain romaine lettuce is now safe to eat, US public health agencies say

The FDA thinks Walmart may have one solution to romaine lettuce recalls

TK: How will the public respond to news of contaminated produce, over time? How badly wounded is romaine, in particular?

Check out these studies published in from several years ago looking at that question in the wake of the 2006 spinach outbreak and others.

Public Response to Large-Scale Produce Contamination One subhead in that study had this ominous note: Some Will Never Again Eat the Affected Food

E. coli Outbreaks Affect Demand for Salad Vegetables

From the USDA ERS: Consumers’ Response to the 2006 Foodborne Illness Outbreak Linked to Spinach