Crops and production have been seriously affected, leading to a bagged salad shortage.
Having a hard time finding your favorite bagged lettuce at the local grocery store? You aren’t the only one. Lettuce is quite hard to come by at the moment, and will likely continue to be so due to two unfortunate events that have affected lettuce crops and production over the past six months. So if you love to toss together a salad for dinner or grab a salad kit when you need something quick for lunch, this series of unfortunate events may affect your usual mealtime routine.
Why Is There a Lettuce Shortage Right Now?
Unfortunately, the lettuce shortage is being caused by two separate events causing prices to skyrocket and bags of lettuce to be rather scarce.
The first has to do with a cyber attack that happened at Dole in February. Dole is a global leader in fresh fruit and vegetable agriculture and is one of the main providers of bagged lettuce for grocery stores. However, on Feb. 22, Dole published a press release notifying the public that they were victims of a cyber-attack due to ransomware.
Emanuel Lazopoulos, senior vice president at Dole’s Fresh Vegetables division, stated that Dole Food Company was forced to shut down their systems throughout North America in a memo to retailers on Feb. 10. This includes four processing plants, which employs over 3,000 people, according to CNN.
The timing of this cyber-attack is also unfortunate given that lettuce crops have already taken a hard hit due to a virus that has taken hold of crops across Salinas Valley in California. Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus (INSV) causes crops to wilt, yellow, have “chicken-pox-like” sunken leaves, etches, ring spots on leaves and more, according to Penn State University. Crops with the virus must be isolated to control it, but if crops aren’t isolated, it can spread easily—which has been the reality for many of the lettuce crops coming from Salinas Valley at the end of 2022.
How Long Will Dole’s Systems Be Shut Down?
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As of right now, it is not clear how long Dole’s systems will be shut down. According to its recent press release, Dole is working with third-party cybersecurity experts and has notified law enforcement about the incident, hoping to remedy the issue with their security systems quickly.
However, because production has been limited, this means your usual bagged lettuce and go-to salad kits could be affected by this cyber-attack. Finding bagged lettuce may be difficult over the next few weeks or months, and if it is available, it could likely be very expensive due to supply and demand costs.
Tips for Other Types of Salads That Don’t Need Lettuce
If bagged lettuce is not available at the store right now (or the bags currently at the store are completely out of your price range), there are still many salad options you can throw together that don’t require leafy greens as an ingredient. These lettuce-free salads will make a tasty addition to any meal—or make for a great meal on their own!
Grain salads work well if you need something hearty—they are usually made with grains like corn, brown rice, quinoa, barley or bulgur.
Baked salads are also a great option if you’re looking for something warmer during the colder months. These call for the use of kale, which is a crop that has not been affected by the INSV virus in California.