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Romaine Calm; Tainted Lettuce No Longer A Threat

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Romaine calm. The leafy green will eventually go back on the shelves. Last Tuesday, the CDC issued a warning not to eat romaine after an E. Coli outbreak. But for restaurants, it has meant less of a different kind of green.

It's been a long week for Ali Smith. He's had to tell customers repeatedly why their most popular green was missing from the menu.

"Everyone that walked in here wanted the romaine," says Smith, owner of Crisp Salad Co. "A lot of people were actually mad that we did not have romaine."

But there's been no romaine remaining - anywhere - after the CDC announced a wide-spread E. Coli outbreak. Tainted romaine sickened 43 people across 12 states. Smith says he got word last Tuesday just an hour after a shipment arrived.

"We threw away 7 cases at about $100 a case, so we threw away $700 minimum," he says. "It's not a good feeling. Romaine walking in and walking right back out."

And that was just the beginning. Smith says the loss to his bottom line has been devastating.

"We're definitely talking in the thousands. It's a pretty bad loss."

Not just for him - but for restaurants across the country.

"All the burger places, the salad places, even the pizza places are having to switch because they serve salad as well, so industry-wide we have all taken a major hit," Smith says.

The CDC has now traced the contamination to Central California-sourced romaine and says the rest is safe. But many customers says they'll stay wary of the green, at least for now.

"I don't know if I'm ready to test that yet. I might wait another week to be sure everything's okay," says customer Natalie Spitzer.

Crisp has a shipment of the new lettuce arriving Friday, so customers can expect to see it back on the menu then. Smith says that will be a huge relief.

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