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
sprayer applying bactericides to citrus trees
Insect & Disease Update
January 24, 2017
New Product Called on to Defend Citrus From Scourge
Mycoshield is a bactericide approved to take aim at HLB-infected trees. Read More
Port Tampa Bay shipping channel
Citrus
January 24, 2017
Trump Withdraws U.S. From Trans-Pacific Partnership
Fresh produce export market to hit a wall with signing of executive order. Read More
Vegetables
January 23, 2017
The Northwest Has the Most Growers Under 55 Years Old
Survey respondents in the Northwest are more likely to grow organically, avoid genetically modified crops [GMOs], and more likely to Read More
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
California Lands $5 Million for Citrus Greening Research
The USDA grant will be used to create and identify possible solutions for a cure. Read More
Postbloom Fruit Drop symptoms on Florida ctirus
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
Florida Citrus Growers on Alert for Postbloom Fruit Drop
After the worst outbreak in years, growers should be wary of this disorder. Read More
More Vegetables
January 23, 2017
California Garlic Grower to Raise Minimum Wage 30% by Next Year
Christopher Ranch commits to $15 per hour minimum wages for all employees by 2018. Read More
GenNext Growers
January 21, 2017
$8.8M Available to Support Ag Programs at Hispanic-Serving Institutions
Grants designed to attract, retain students in agricultural fields. Read More
a trio of peaches
Fruits
January 20, 2017
Insecticide Label Expanded to Many Specialty Crops
Sivanto Prime from Bayer can now be used in foliar form on stone fruit and caneberries, and for soil use on leafy and brassica vegetables. Read More
Cucurbits
January 20, 2017
Renowned Researcher Margaret McGrath Receives Cornell’s Excellence in IPM Award 
A plant pathologist, McGrath’s expertise has helped both organic and conventional growers fight late blight, downy mildew, and others.  Read More
Grapes
January 20, 2017
Live Reports on the State of the Wine Industry
The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, by far the nation’s largest winegrape conference, is happening this week in Sacramento, CA. Read More
The Latest
Insect & Disease Update
January 24, 2017
New Product Called on to Defend Citrus F…
Mycoshield is a bactericide approved to take aim at HLB-infected trees. Read More
Citrus
January 24, 2017
Trump Withdraws U.S. From Trans-Pacific …
Fresh produce export market to hit a wall with signing of executive order. Read More
Vegetables
January 23, 2017
The Northwest Has the Most Growers Under…
Survey respondents in the Northwest are more likely to grow organically, avoid genetically modified crops [GMOs], and more likely to Read More
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
California Lands $5 Million for Citrus G…
The USDA grant will be used to create and identify possible solutions for a cure. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
Florida Citrus Growers on Alert for Post…
After the worst outbreak in years, growers should be wary of this disorder. Read More
More Vegetables
January 23, 2017
California Garlic Grower to Raise Minimu…
Christopher Ranch commits to $15 per hour minimum wages for all employees by 2018. Read More
GenNext Growers
January 21, 2017
$8.8M Available to Support Ag Programs a…
Grants designed to attract, retain students in agricultural fields. Read More
Fruits
January 20, 2017
Insecticide Label Expanded to Many Speci…
Sivanto Prime from Bayer can now be used in foliar form on stone fruit and caneberries, and for soil use on leafy and brassica vegetables. Read More
Cucurbits
January 20, 2017
Renowned Researcher Margaret McGrath Rec…
A plant pathologist, McGrath’s expertise has helped both organic and conventional growers fight late blight, downy mildew, and others.  Read More
Grapes
January 20, 2017
Live Reports on the State of the Wine In…
The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, by far the nation’s largest winegrape conference, is happening this week in Sacramento, CA. Read More
Farm Marketing
January 20, 2017
Direct Marketing Revenue Topped $8 Billi…
USDA has released its first-ever survey on direct marketing, and it shows that the local food industry is huge. Read More
Citrus
January 20, 2017
Farming Will Always Have a Place in Flor…
Growers are resilient and agriculture will survive in our state and elsewhere. It has to, if we want food on our plates. Read More
Disease Control
January 20, 2017
Don’t Let Stemphylium Leaf Spot St…
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this vegetable disease. Read More
Disease Control
January 19, 2017
Clues Found to Block Late Blight’s…
With food security at stake, breakthrough in genetic research could help prevent more strains of the deadly pathogen from entering the U.S. Read More
Grapes
January 19, 2017
U.S. Challenges Canadian Trade Measures …
Trade enforcement action challenges British Columbia regulations that unfairly exclude U.S. wine from grocery store shelves. Read More
Citrus
January 19, 2017
Trump Taps Sonny Perdue for Secretary of…
Ag leaders applaud pick to head up USDA. Read More
Citrus
January 19, 2017
New York Representatives Introduce Bill …
Legislators say the move aligns the program in the department to better fit the needs of agriculture businesses. Read More
Citrus
January 19, 2017
New Technology Could Take Weather Intel …
Scientists aiming to make difficult climate-based production decisions easier for growers. Read More