International Produce Training

Red Leaf Lettuce- Light color

A good question was sent to me regarding a lot of red leaf lettuce that arrived at their doors.  Is there a minimum “red” color requirement for red leaf lettuce?



As you can see the red color is not very prominent, only extending an inch or two from the margins.  My first reaction would be to call this a quality defect, poorly colored.  But after a quick review of the Field Grown Leaf Lettuce U.S. Grade Standard I was not able to find any requirement that red leaf lettuce has to have red color.

The U.S. Grade Standard reads: “U.S. No. 1 consists of plants of field grown leaf lettuce of similar varietal characteristics which are well developed, fairly well trimmed, free from decay, freezing and free from damage by broken midribs, bruising, dirt or foreign material, discoloration, Downy Mildew, seedstems, Tipburn, watersoaked, yellowing, insects, worms, mechanical or other means.”

Reviewing the definitions for “similar varietal characteristics” or “well developed”, I was surprised to see no reference to color.  From a USDA Inspector point of view, the above lettuce would not be scored as a defect, since there is no minimum requirement for red color on red leaf lettuce.  I am sure the next question is obvious, “Does this mean that red leaf lettuce could be 100% green color and still meet the requirement of U.S. No. 1?”  As long as there is some red color on the leaves of the lettuce it is considered as being red leaf lettuce.  If no red color is found on the leaves then an inspector could interpret the Grade Standard as this being a defect, failing to meet the requirement of being a similar varietal characteristic of red leaf lettuce.


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