Tomato Vendor Crackdown

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson announced that two tomato vendors at a private Immokalee farmers market have been served with misdemeanor violation notices for failing to comply with food safety rules involving the sanitizing and packing of tomatoes. The actions were taken during a sweep by Bronson’s regulatory inspectors and law enforcement officers at the farmers market on New Market Road in Immokalee.

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Bronson said authorities were at the market to assure that vendors selling tomatoes were complying with rules enacted in 2008 that require tomatoes to be sanitized to reduce microbial contamination and harvested into plastic boxes. The rules, which are part of the “Tomato Good Agricultural Practices,” also govern the growing and post-harvest handling of tomatoes.

They were adopted after the Florida Legislature passed a law in 2007 at the request of the state’s tomato industry and Bronson’s office designed to assure that Florida is adhering to the strictest sanitary guidelines possible in the production and handling of tomatoes.

In 2009 and 2010, Bronson’s Division of Fruit and Vegetables and Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement conducted regulatory compliance inspections at several locations around the state, and issued warning notices to vendors failing to abide by the law along with warnings that repeat violations would trigger misdemeanor charges.

The two vendors who were served with misdemeanor charges were:
* Teresa Montye de Aggreguin, Chavita’s Produce
* Salvador G. Parra, Parra Produce

Seven others were served with Stop Sale Orders for violation of F.S.S. 500.04, Selling of Misbranded Food.