The romaine lettuce e-coli outbreak has spread concerns across the country about food safety. A farm right here in Connecticut has developed a process that people say is a safer way to grow romaine and other lettuce than the traditional process outdoors and in the soil.
Instead, H2O Farm in Guilford grows romaine and other lettuce inside its huge greenhouse on trays that sit on top of water. It’s called hydroponic growing and workers there say it’s the future of the growing industry.
“It’s a safe environment,” said Chaim Tovia, H2O Farm’s Project Manager. “It’s enclosed. You eliminate a lot of disease like e-coli.”
Tovia says it eliminates e-coli concerns because there are no animals inside the greenhouse like there are outside with traditional growing methods. The lettuce is actually grown on trays that go into the water and the water provides the nutrients for the lettuce to grow. Tovia says they can also control environmental conditions like the temperature better than traditional growing methods outdoors and they can monitor the lettuce more often during development.
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“We’ve proven time and time again that we can give a much better product – cleaner, no issue with all kinds of disease,” Tovia said.
H2O Farm supplies various supermarket chains in Connecticut and throughout New England with romaine and other lettuce sold in stores like Big Y, Stop and Shop and Shop Rite. Tovia says he’s answered hundreds of calls from grocery store shoppers since the e-coli outbreak began. He’s happy to be able to give all of those callers some good news when it comes to his romaine.
“We’ve been good throughout this outbreak so it’s safe to eat it,” he told one caller.
Tovia says the latest independent testing at H2O shows zero traces of e-coli in their lettuce. H2O’s lettuce is tested every three months — that’s ahead of what the FDA mandates right now — that testing be done twice a year.
“That’s what people want,” Tovia said. “They want consistency. They want to have a good product without being scared.”