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

IrrigationWet December Predicted For Parched California
November 25, 2014
National Weather Service says above-normal precipitation expected; it may continue through the winter in central and southern parts of the Golden State. Read More
Apples & PearsEPA Approves Three New Moth Mating Disruption Products
November 25, 2014
Codling moth and oriental fruit moth are targeted by apple and pear growers. Read More
VegetablesSakata Hosts Annual Fall Field Trials
November 25, 2014
Growers and dealer partners gather to see new varieties at the company's South Florida field station. Read More
VegetablesStokes Seeds Presents Their Latest Vegetable Varieties
November 25, 2014
For more information, contact: Stokes Seeds P.O. Box 548 Buffalo, NY 14240-0548 800-263-7233; fax: 800-272-5560 stokesseeds.com Read More
VegetablesAbbott & Cobb Presents Their Latest Vegetable Varieties
November 25, 2014
For more information, contact: Abbott & Cobb P.O. Box 307 Feasterville, PA 19053 800-245-SEED; fax:215-245-9043 abbotcobb.com Read More
VegetablesVariety Trials 2014: Rupp Seeds
November 25, 2014
Check out new pumpkins weighing between 18 and 20 pounds as well as new powdery-mildew tolerant butternut squash hybrids. Read More
Food SafetyMultistate Salmonella Outbreak Linked To Bean Sprouts
November 25, 2014
FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with state and local officials continue to investigate the food-borne illness outbreak. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateCitrus Survey: New Management Techniques Trending
November 25, 2014
Growers widen their tactical approach to survive HLB. Read More
FruitsFruitGrowerConnect Brings Buyers And Sellers Together [Slideshow]
November 25, 2014
Suppliers and growers got down to business in San Diego discussing current needs, solutions, and ways to increase efficiencies on the farm. Read More
Vegetables13 Must Have Carrot Varieties [Slideshow]
November 24, 2014
Browse the slideshow for information on 13 carrot varieties to add to your collection. Read More

The Latest

IrrigationWet December Predicted For Parched California
November 25, 2014
National Weather Service says above-normal precipitation expected; it may continue through the winter in central and southern parts of the Golden State. Read More
Apples & PearsEPA Approves Three New Moth Mating Disruption Products
November 25, 2014
Codling moth and oriental fruit moth are targeted by apple and pear growers. Read More
VegetablesSakata Hosts Annual Fall Field Trials
November 25, 2014
Growers and dealer partners gather to see new varieties at the company's South Florida field station. Read More
VegetablesStokes Seeds Presents Their Latest Vegetable Varieties
November 25, 2014
For more information, contact: Stokes Seeds P.O. Box 548 Buffalo, NY 14240-0548 800-263-7233; fax: 800-272-5560 stokesseeds.com Read More
VegetablesAbbott & Cobb Presents Their Latest Vegetable Varie…
November 25, 2014
For more information, contact: Abbott & Cobb P.O. Box 307 Feasterville, PA 19053 800-245-SEED; fax:215-245-9043 abbotcobb.com Read More
VegetablesVariety Trials 2014: Rupp Seeds
November 25, 2014
Check out new pumpkins weighing between 18 and 20 pounds as well as new powdery-mildew tolerant butternut squash hybrids. Read More
Food SafetyMultistate Salmonella Outbreak Linked To Bean Sprouts
November 25, 2014
FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with state and local officials continue to investigate the food-borne illness outbreak. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateCitrus Survey: New Management Techniques Trending
November 25, 2014
Growers widen their tactical approach to survive HLB. Read More
FruitsFruitGrowerConnect Brings Buyers And Sellers Together […
November 25, 2014
Suppliers and growers got down to business in San Diego discussing current needs, solutions, and ways to increase efficiencies on the farm. Read More
Vegetables13 Must Have Carrot Varieties [Slideshow]
November 24, 2014
Browse the slideshow for information on 13 carrot varieties to add to your collection. Read More
CitrusReasons Aplenty Florida Growers Should Feel Good Going …
November 24, 2014
Thanks to recent industry achievements, the next 12-month period is shaping up to be a year to remember --- fondly. Read More
BerriesSuspected Borer Could Be Big Bother To Florida Blueberr…
November 24, 2014
Producers warned to be on the lookout as scientists probe samples. Read More
NutsWatch Your Almonds’ Salt Intake
November 24, 2014
Because of the current California drought, almond growers must pay extra attention to soil salinity. Read More
Varieties & RootstocksHelp On The Way Citrus Growers Can Truly Tap Into
November 24, 2014
Demand for inventory to rise as USDA’s Tree Assistance Program pushes new plantings. Read More
FruitsRegistration Opens Dec. 1 For NAFDMA 30th Annual Conven…
November 24, 2014
The five-day event includes bus tours, educational sessions, workshops, and a business exchange in Tennessee in February. Read More
CitrusIndustry Organizations Sound Off On President’s Immig…
November 21, 2014
Agriculture is not given the attention it so sorely deserves when it comes to the immigration debate. Read More
Insect ControlDon’t Turn Your Back On Striped Blister Beetles
November 21, 2014
Learn how to ID, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable pest. Read More
CitrusRamped-Up Predatory Mite Production To Benefit Growers
November 21, 2014
Biologics company Beneficial Insectary now rearing two species in its California facility. Read More