Editorial: Final Lesson From The 2008 Salmonella Outbreak

Last month in American Vegetable Grower’s weekly eNewsletter, we reported on a study vindicating tomatoes in the 2008 Salmonella outbreak. The study, which was released in the New England Journal of Medicine, provided “detailed evidence” linking the 2008 outbreak of Salmonella saintpaul to jalapeño and serrano peppers, not tomatoes. Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained how tomatoes were mistakenly charged as being the source of the foodborne illness outbreak in the early stages of the investigation.

Besides the fact that releasing this information more than two years after the incident is really “too little too late,” the tomato industry, or any commodity for that matter, can’t afford to be thrown under the bus like that ever again without hard evidence. Millions of dollars were lost by tomato growers from all over the country. The incident, which I’m sure is still fresh in the minds of many, wreaked havoc on the tomato industry.

Government officials came to a quick conclusion that tomatoes were the culprit and things snowballed from there. You all know the story. There is no need to go into the gory details again.

After the New England Journal of Medicine study came out in February, our sister publication, Florida Grower, asked its audience the following poll question: “Should some form of restitution be granted to growers for the misidentification of tomatoes as the source of the 2008 Salmonella outbreak?”

A whopping 94% said “Yes.” At the very least, it is safe to say producers of fresh produce aren’t ever again going to take an incident like this lying down, especially those in the Sunshine State.

Time For Change

In 2011, with the birth of the Food Safety Modernization Act, it is hoped that at the very least we will see an end to knee-jerk produce recalls. For those who need to catch up on what the Food Safety Modernization Act will mean to your operation, be sure to head to www.GrowingProduce.com and click on the March issue. We’ve covered everything from commodity-specific food safety plans to those who are exempt under the Tester amendment.

The bottom line with the new food safety law, however, is that the focus needs to be on doing what it takes to reduce the likelihood of a foodborne illness outbreak in the first place, and that using sound science will need to reign supreme.

Headed In The Right Direction

The good news is that we may be on the right track. Recently, the Center for Produce Safety at the University of California-Davis joined with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to host a “produce safety tour” in Florida.

The goal was to provide federal agencies, which included folks from FDA and USDA and state food safety regulators, with first-hand information on how fresh produce is grown, packed, and handled. Tours were held at 15 operations and covered a variety of commodities including strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, and leafy greens. The tours included operations from one extreme to the other: facilities with state-of-the-art traceability and food safety systems all the way to a large market where traceability would be a very difficult task to execute.

In essence, it is all about learning. The people in government agencies who are in the position of looking after the safety of our food supply need to understand the intricacies of how food is grown, packed, and shipped in order to do their jobs.

It is our job to make sure they get the education they need.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
tomatoes and strawberries
BerriesScientists Seek To Save Flavor Of Tomatoes And Strawberries
April 17, 2015
A $500,000 grant will enable University of Florida researchers to focus on how light can affect the quality and taste of produce after harvest. Read More
GrapesThe Economic Impact Of Grapevine Leafroll Disease
April 17, 2015
Different control strategies are recommended depending on the prevalence of the disease in vineyard blocks. Read More
Natalie Parkell and Kevin Osburn of Vertical Horizon Farms
CitrusSmall Family Farms Can Survive [Opinion]
April 17, 2015
It is reassuring amid the corporate climate the agriculture industry has experienced in more recent times that there is still room for the little guy, and — more importantly — a need. Read More
GrapesTable Grape Commission Awarded More Funding To Study Postharvest Treatment
April 16, 2015
The research will ensure California grape exports continue uninterrupted. Read More
Tom West Blueberries family
BerriesUrban Sprawl Doesn’t Stop 4th-Generation Florida Farm From Growing
April 16, 2015
Growing in town supports the evolution of Tom West Blueberries. Read More
Golden Rice
CitrusMore Social Commentators Changing Their Views On GMO Crops
April 15, 2015
Could public opinion be swayed by evolving narration on genetic modification? Read More
EquipmentTips To Reduce Soil Compaction In The Field
April 15, 2015
Growers are encouraged to check and maintain proper tire pressure as temperature changes throughout the growing season. Read More
FruitsNew Protective Coating Available For Bee Hives
April 14, 2015
Sustainable crop management company Biobest has announced the launch of “Bee-Coat,” a new protective coating for bumblebee hives. It is Read More
Gala green tip apple bloom
Apples & PearsApple Scab Spores Begin To Emerge In Pennsylvania
April 14, 2015
Now is a good time to apply copper sprays to protect trees. Read More
FruitsRecord Low Snowpack In Washington State
April 14, 2015
Experts say snowmelt occurring earlier than expected. Read More
The Latest
tomatoes and strawberries
BerriesScientists Seek To Save Flavor Of Tomatoes And Strawber…
April 17, 2015
A $500,000 grant will enable University of Florida researchers to focus on how light can affect the quality and taste of produce after harvest. Read More
GrapesThe Economic Impact Of Grapevine Leafroll Disease
April 17, 2015
Different control strategies are recommended depending on the prevalence of the disease in vineyard blocks. Read More
Natalie Parkell and Kevin Osburn of Vertical Horizon Farms
CitrusSmall Family Farms Can Survive [Opinion]
April 17, 2015
It is reassuring amid the corporate climate the agriculture industry has experienced in more recent times that there is still room for the little guy, and — more importantly — a need. Read More
GrapesTable Grape Commission Awarded More Funding To Study Po…
April 16, 2015
The research will ensure California grape exports continue uninterrupted. Read More
Tom West Blueberries family
BerriesUrban Sprawl Doesn’t Stop 4th-Generation Florida …
April 16, 2015
Growing in town supports the evolution of Tom West Blueberries. Read More
Golden Rice
CitrusMore Social Commentators Changing Their Views On GMO Cr…
April 15, 2015
Could public opinion be swayed by evolving narration on genetic modification? Read More
EquipmentTips To Reduce Soil Compaction In The Field
April 15, 2015
Growers are encouraged to check and maintain proper tire pressure as temperature changes throughout the growing season. Read More
FruitsNew Protective Coating Available For Bee Hives
April 14, 2015
Sustainable crop management company Biobest has announced the launch of “Bee-Coat,” a new protective coating for bumblebee hives. It is Read More
Gala green tip apple bloom
Apples & PearsApple Scab Spores Begin To Emerge In Pennsylvania
April 14, 2015
Now is a good time to apply copper sprays to protect trees. Read More
FruitsRecord Low Snowpack In Washington State
April 14, 2015
Experts say snowmelt occurring earlier than expected. Read More
Crop ProtectionMore Help Needed To Track Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, …
April 14, 2015
This pest, a problem in apples, tomatoes, and other fruit in the North, has recently moved into Georgia.    Read More
NutsPart 2: Spring Weed Management Tips For Almonds: Reduce…
April 14, 2015
Follow these tips to help improve long-term efficacy of herbicides. Read More
NutsPart 2: Combating Navel Orangeworm: IPM Approaches to R…
April 14, 2015
Follow these IPM approaches to reduce unnecessary sprays and manage pyrethroid resistance. Read More
CucurbitsHow To Control Damaging Diseases In Melons
April 14, 2015
Some of the top diseases to watch for include Fusarium wilt, angular leaf spot, and powdery mildew. Read More
CitrusFlorida Agriculture Rings Up Record $4.2 Billion In Int…
April 13, 2015
Accomplishment represents third year in a row that Sunshine State exports have topped the $4 billion mark. Read More
Disease ControlWebcast: Control High Tunnel Tomato Diseases
April 13, 2015
As part of a series of free educational webcasts on The Plant Management Network, a nonprofit online resource for researchers, Read More
TomatoesSuccess With Vegetable Grafting
April 10, 2015
Grafted Growers began as most successful companies do, which is to say, as a collaboration between innovative, and like-minded individuals. Read More
GrapesMeet The Expert: George Zhuang, Viticulturist
April 10, 2015
Zhuang, a new University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor, plans to focus his research on increasing production with fewer resources. Read More