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Local Lettuce Grower Has A Safer Way Through Hydroponics

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The nationwide recall of romaine lettuce couldn't have come at a worse time. As families prepare for their Thanksgiving Day feasts, romaine lettuce is being pulled from their tables.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide romaine recall based on 32 recent illnesses in 11 states and 18 reported illnesses in Canada.

All are likely linked to eating romaine lettuce contaminated by E. coli. It's believed the field-raised lettuce may have been contaminated by irrigation water that contained the E. coli 0157 strain.

Acting on the CDC's recommendation, grocers nationwide are pulling suspect romaine lettuce product from store shelves.

But in Medford, the nine-month old Revol Greens company has safer way to grow leafy greens – by raising the lettuce hydroponically indoors.

"We have eight or nine different varieties here that we grow," said company president Jay Johnson.

Revol Greens Hyrdoponics
(credit: CBS)

Johnson says that unlike lettuce that is grown outdoors in massive fields in Arizona and California, their crops are grown hydroponically - under glass and in pools of irrigation water which they sterilize with ultra violet (UV) light.

"We started from the beginning with food safety in mind, and this is the safest way," said Johnson. "That's why it's difficult to be grouped in with the broad romaine alert."

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It's also why Revol is working with the industry's lobby to ask federal regulators to exempt indoor grown lettuce from the recall. Arguing that unlike field-raised crops, their romaine lettuce is never exposed to possible contamination sources from birds or animals.

"E. coli comes from the intestines of animals and birds. So [unlike] a bird flying over your field or an animal running through your field, we are enclosed with this glass greenhouse," explained Johnson.

Even without more clarity from the CDC, Johnson says other lettuce varieties, such as iceberg and baby arugula are not impacted by the recall and will remain on grocers shelves.

Finally, Revol Greens wants to assure customers who might have its romaine lettuce in their refrigerators that it is safe to eat. Because it is grown not in a farm field, but in the company's controlled and sterile environment.

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