Scallions may be off the hook: It’s looking (registration required) more and more like lettuce is the culprit in the Taco Bell E. coli outbreak. The fast-food chain’s iceberg shreds hail from (where else?) California—specifically Irwindale-based Ready Pac Produce, although Taco Bell canceled its contract with the company last week and hired Taylor Farms of Salinas instead.
The whole story reinforces the growing awareness that something ain’t right with our food-safety regulations. Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser helps explain why in a recent opinion piece (registration required). Hint: it has something to do with fast-food and meatpacking lobbyists, political donations, and Republican elected officials.
But this latest development also raises another, admittedly far more frivolous question: Why use lettuce in Mexican (or even “Mexican”) food in the first place? As plenty of true burritophiles and burrito eaters will tell you, lettuce has no place in a burrito. Ditto for a taco, where in my humble opinion (and in others’ as well), the only garnishes, if any, should be salsa, onion, and cilantro. Shredded lettuce has virtually no taste, and it doesn’t add crunch, no matter what anyone tells you—it gets watery and dilutes flavor, a far cry from the crisp, lovely lettuce cups common in Korean fare. The so-called vegetable doesn’t add any health benefits, either: Iceberg lettuce is a nutritional black hole, and even the other varieties (romaine and Bibb, for example) don’t bring a whole lot more to the table.
If there are any lettuce-in-burrito lovers out there, come forth and defend yourselves!