This is a pretty predictable market response to the romaine lettuce panic:
After an outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce took the popular salad green off the shelves, prices for other types of lettuce soared, according to United States Department of Agriculture data.
In a weeks’ time, the cost of a 24-count carton of iceberg lettuce rose anywhere from 168 percent to 119 percent. On Nov. 19, one day before the advisory, iceberg lettuce sold for $16.56 to $20.85 per carton. By Nov. 21, suppliers fetched between $36.65 and $39.56 for the same box. On Nov. 26, the day the advisory was lifted, the price had climbed to $44.35 to $45.65, according to the USDA’s National FOB Review, which tracks daily produce prices. The numbers cited are for 90 percent of the sales tracked.
The USDA also said supplies of iceberg were light, and said demand exceeded supply. Prices of other lettuces, including Boston, red leaf and green leaf varieties, followed a similar pattern.
Trevor Suslow, the vice president of food safety for the Produce Marketing Association, said consumers turned to other lettuces to substitute romaine.
“As always seems to happen, there is an initial response when you take a major component out of the marketplace and others start to fill that gap,” he said. “Prices certainly have taken an increase.”
The Food and Drug Administration narrowed the source of the E. coli outbreak to six California counties. Now that romaine lettuce grown outside of Northern California has been deemed safe for consumers, some farmers expect a spike in price as suppliers rush to fill demand over the next few days.