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
Production
March 1, 2017
Iran Is Moving All Vegetable Growing Into Greenhouses
Iran will be converting all its vegetable farms to greenhouses within 10 years, The Financial Tribune reports. Its agriculture minister Read More
Florida red grapefruit samples
Grapefruit & Specialty
March 1, 2017
Is South Korea a Grapefruit Market Goldmine?
Researchers are finding high demand for the tart citrus, opening the door for opportunistic Florida growers to fill the need. Read More
Fruits
March 1, 2017
Prepare for Takeoff of Horticultural Technology [Opinion]
While agricultural technology has been talked about for a while, it seems like it's time to put on your seatbelts and prepare for takeoff. Read More
honeybees
CEU Series
March 1, 2017
CEU Series: Be Aware of Bees When Applying Pesticides
As a pesticide applicator, it is your duty to reduce risks for pollinators. Read More
Fruits
February 28, 2017
Growers’ Help Wanted on Spotted Wing Drosophila Survey
National project needs input on how the nasty pest affected your farms in 2016. Read More
Citrus
February 28, 2017
Trump Set to Ditch Controversial Water Rule
WOTUS could be on the way out after an executive order calls for a top-to-bottom review. Read More
Farm Management
February 28, 2017
Key Cabinet Picks Likely Good News for Growers
National Potato Council's John Keeling weighs in on how President Trump's picks for to head up EPA and Department of Agriculture will impact vegetable growers. Read More
Fruits
February 27, 2017
Warm February Concerning, But Fruit Growers Shouldn’t Panic
While maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey do show spring appears to be arriving early, Extension experts don’t expect a repeat of 2012. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Using Drones To Scout Almonds From Above
At California State University, Fresno, scientists are studying how drones can save almond growers water — and help them use less labor too. Read More
UF/IFAS researcher Cristina Pisani examines ailing avocado tree
Crop Protection
February 27, 2017
New Discovery Smells Like Victory for Florida Avocado Growers
Scientists find naturally occurring repellent that could keep disease-carrying beetles at bay. Read More
The Latest
Production
March 1, 2017
Iran Is Moving All Vegetable Growing Int…
Iran will be converting all its vegetable farms to greenhouses within 10 years, The Financial Tribune reports. Its agriculture minister Read More
Grapefruit & Specialty
March 1, 2017
Is South Korea a Grapefruit Market Goldm…
Researchers are finding high demand for the tart citrus, opening the door for opportunistic Florida growers to fill the need. Read More
Fruits
March 1, 2017
Prepare for Takeoff of Horticultural Tec…
While agricultural technology has been talked about for a while, it seems like it's time to put on your seatbelts and prepare for takeoff. Read More
CEU Series
March 1, 2017
CEU Series: Be Aware of Bees When Applyi…
As a pesticide applicator, it is your duty to reduce risks for pollinators. Read More
Fruits
February 28, 2017
Growers’ Help Wanted on Spotted Wing Dro…
National project needs input on how the nasty pest affected your farms in 2016. Read More
Citrus
February 28, 2017
Trump Set to Ditch Controversial Water R…
WOTUS could be on the way out after an executive order calls for a top-to-bottom review. Read More
Farm Management
February 28, 2017
Key Cabinet Picks Likely Good News for G…
National Potato Council's John Keeling weighs in on how President Trump's picks for to head up EPA and Department of Agriculture will impact vegetable growers. Read More
Fruits
February 27, 2017
Warm February Concerning, But Fruit Grow…
While maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey do show spring appears to be arriving early, Extension experts don’t expect a repeat of 2012. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Using Drones To Scout Almonds From Above
At California State University, Fresno, scientists are studying how drones can save almond growers water — and help them use less labor too. Read More
Crop Protection
February 27, 2017
New Discovery Smells Like Victory for Fl…
Scientists find naturally occurring repellent that could keep disease-carrying beetles at bay. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Getting to the Root of Devastating Stone…
Armillaria root rot is a death sentence for trees and replant sites; however, researchers are looking to breed fungus-resistant rootstocks to make replanting economically feasible. Read More
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush …
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Grapes
February 26, 2017
Winegrowers See Total Sustainability in …
Sonoma County Winegrowers eyes 2019 to become the U.S.’s first completely sustainable wine region. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Let’s Stand Up for Science
Yes, there’s an art to agriculture, but its very definition is the science of farming, so you have a deeply rooted connection to scientists. Read More
Citrus
February 25, 2017
Citrus Research Investments Yielding Pos…
Despite still having mounds of wood to chop, grower, federal, and state programs collectively are making a dent. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Major Challenges to the Fruit Industry A…
Don’t underestimate the need for research, as innovation is becoming an urgent necessity for our future. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
New Mobile Apps for Farmers to Grow on t…
Thanks to the latest in software technology, real-time decisions can be made with one swipe of your finger. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
In-The-Field Learning Invaluable for Gen…
Annual tour allows Florida's future farming leaders the chance to have open and honest discussions with CEOs and managers and tap into their knowledge. Read More