Southeast MO farmers, consumers react to worsening E. coli outbreak

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The E, coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce has now sickened 149 people in 29 states.

While some consumers in southeast Missouri are avoiding lettuce altogether, others are turning to local farmers markets for what they believe is a much safer product.

"I've got four kids and I don't want to play around with E. coli. That is scary," said Lindsay Mahurin, a vegan from Altenburg who was shopping with her two daughters at the Cape Farmers Market Thursday.

Since the E. coli outbreak started, Mahurin says she's been substituting romaine lettuce with kail, spinach, swiss chard and other greens because she doesn't want her family to sick.

"This gives me chills because I don't think it's something we should have to worry about," she said. "We should just be able to trust that you get your food and it's not got a life-threatening illness in it."

Mary Allen is retired registered nurse and says she has continued to buy romaine lettuce at local farmers markets in the area because she trusts it more than buying it a grocery store.

"I usually buy from the people I've bought from before, and never had a problem," Allen said. "There is always a chance anybody can have a problem. It doesn't mean that they're 100 percent free of anything because things can be picked up through the air and so forth."

Farmer Kurt Sweitzer says the demand for local lettuce has gone up since the E. coli outbreak in Arizona. He makes sure his produce is picked fresh, kept clean and handled well.

"The thing with Arizona now, it may not have even picked it up on the farm," Sweitzer said. "I may have come in a certain warehouse, or a truck or a cooler. I don't know. I think that won't happen her because we don't ship stuff across the country. The leafy stuff that is here, we picked that this morning."

Allen says she washes her green with salt water and Mahurin says she sometimes uses vinegar on her produce before they eat it at home to add an extra layer of security.

"My husband he drives me nuts because a lot of times he won't wash stuff, and I'm like 'Oh you can't just eat it. You've got to clean it,'" Mahurin said with a laugh.

Thursday's market is every week from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Cape's Riverfront Farmers market are Downtown Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

To find a local farmers markets near year visit Heartland Weekend website.

Download the KFVS News app: iPhone | Android

Copyright 2018 KFVS. All rights reserved