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Grocery stores pull Arizona lettuce from shelves

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Heads of iceberg lettuce are being removed from grocery store shelves in at least seven states after salmonella was found in an Arizona field adjacent to the grower’s property.

None of the lettuce in the markets has tested positive for salmonella but the grower alerted retailers of the test results and sought a withdrawal of the product “out of an abundance of caution.”

“There’s no evidence of contamination on any product whatsoever,” Jamie Strachan, CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Growers Express, told The Associated Press on Friday.

Still, The Kroger Co. and its affiliated grocery chain, Smith’s Food and Drug, decided to pull the product from 200 stores in at least seven states, including Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada, Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey said.

Dailey called it a cautionary move prompted by a notice from the grower.

Strachan stressed that none of his company’s product has tested positive for salmonella, and that crops growing in the adjacent field south of Phoenix were destroyed. He would not say who owned the tainted property.

Strachan also declined to say what other grocery store chains in the country might also have some of the lettuce the company has sought to remove from shelves. He said it could be up to 1,000 heads.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we withdrew our product out of market,” Strachan said. “We’re just being cautious.”

He said the company, which also supplies product to Green Giant, hadn’t been ordered to issue any official recall, and has alerted regulatory authorities.

“We’re being very conservative, and we want to do the right thing, but we’re not being asked to do that by any health authorities,” Strachan said.

No illnesses have been reported.

California Department of Public Health spokeswoman Anita Gore said late Friday that Growers Express told both the agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the company had contacted its customers and issued a voluntary “market withdrawal”.

The FDA did not respond to requests for comment.

“They’re pulling the lettuce to be on the safe side, but there’s no official recall,” Utah Department of Agriculture and Food spokesman Larry Lewis said.

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Associated Press writers Paul Foy in Salt Lake City and Garance Burke in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Associated Press

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