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Published: Friday, 9/22/2006

Area stores, eateries find new leaves

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
At Schorling's Market in Toledo, Lisa Radford selects from other types of bagged salad. At Schorling's Market in Toledo, Lisa Radford selects from other types of bagged salad.
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Supplying bagged spring mix salad with no spinach. Displaying greens without a spinach leaf in sight. Putting extra romaine lettuce in Betty Salad.

Those are just a few of the ways area produce suppliers, grocery stores, and restaurants have adapted in the last week after receiving warnings about spinach tainted with E. coli.

One person has died and more than 145 people in 23 states have been made ill by tainted spinach, and recalls are under way.

Toledo's Sam Okun Produce Co. last week did its own voluntary recall and notified nearly 100 customers - primarily restaurants, grocery stores, and schools - that they needed to return fresh spinach products, said Shelly Okun, vice president.

"It was a very big deal, even for us," she said.

Since that recall, the fourth-generation family-owned firm is supplying some customers with bagged spring mix salad that has no spinach, Ms. Okun said. And others who are leery of bagged salads are getting heads of iceberg, romaine, and other lettuces, she said.

Schorling's 5-Star Market in Toledo is selling more romaine heads because of the spinach problem. But customers aren't shying away from other bagged salads, said Ned Riedel, product manager.

"We have a lot of other salads that don't have spinach in them," he said.

Kroger Co. pulled all fresh bagged, bulk, and mixed spinach products; disinfected the areas where they were displayed; and filled in cases with other produce, said Monica Gordon, spokesman.

Now the chain is awaiting word from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that fresh spinach can be sold again, she said.

At the Salad Galley restaurant in downtown Toledo, owner Donna Perras has pulled spinach salad from the menu. Betty and seven-layer salads are made with more romaine lettuce, and other produce is being used in place of spinach in veggie sandwiches, she said.

"We're just making the best of it," Ms. Perras said. "It's been very strange without having spinach."

Toledo's Tandoor Cuisine of India is using canned spinach in place of fresh in some dishes. In others, such as appetizers like pakora, onions and cauliflower are being used instead of spinach, said employee Raj Winder.

"We just put other vegetables in there for now," she said. "It's not a big deal."

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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