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Romaine lettuce cropping up in Twin Cities stores after lifting of national health warning

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Romaine lettuce
This undated photo shows romaine lettuce in Houston.
Steve Campbell | Houston Chronicle via AP

Twin Cities grocery stores will likely have significant supplies of romaine lettuce early next week. 

The lettuce is on its way says Mike Wilken, a spokesperson for Supervalu, which owns Cub Foods stores in Minnesota and supplies groceries to some 1,800 other stores across the country. 

Wilken says Supervalu's romaine lettuce suppliers have resumed harvests in areas outside those under investigation by the feds for E. coli contamination.

"We expect product to begin arriving into our distribution centers and available for our independent retailers across the nation really in the first half of next week," he said. "In addition, Supervalu lettuce suppliers will clearly and prominently label all individually packaged romaine products with the growing region and harvest date.

Meanwhile, Cub stores are obtaining some romaine lettuce from local greenhouse suppliers. Other grocers, including Lunds & Byerlys, are getting that lettuce, too. 

"We do have some limited varieties of local romaine lettuce available in our stores now," spokesperson Aaron Sorenson said in an email. "We expect to have a more typical assortment of romaine offerings in all of our stores by next weekend. "

The local companies that grow lettuce indoors expect the latest scare about contaminated lettuce could be good for business long-term.   

A lot of favorite lettuce mixes disappeared from grocers' shelves with the FDA's warning about E. coli contamination. But companies like Revol Greens of Medford, Minn., were able to supply some greenhouse-grown lettuce throughout the scare. 

"We're getting a lot more interest from consumers," said Brendon Krieg, sales manager for Revol Greens. "I think they are realizing the importance of local, fresh. But even more important than that is food safety. We keep out pests, birds, cattle."

Initially, Revol Greens was not able to supply its romaine lettuce to grocers. That was because of the federal government's blanket warning about all romaine. But Revol supplied butter, red leaf and other lettuces. 

Kowalski's had Revol Greens products on its shelves during the recall.

"Everyone was looking to organizations like them to carry them through," said Kowalski's produce director, Max Maddaus. "They were able to get us some spring mixes and some sweet butter blends to help us limp through this process."

Revol Green's production is relatively low at this point. It grows about 1.5 million pounds of lettuce a year in a two-and-a-half-acre greenhouse. Maddaus estimates the company couldn't even meet 1 percent of Minnesota's appetite for lettuce.