Thursday, June 12, 2008

Importing Poison?

Mexican growers have called a U.S. warning against certain types of their tomatoes unjust, saying it has brought exports to a halt and could cripple Mexico's $900 million industry.

Growers said their produce is subject to double the scrutiny that U.S. tomatoes face: inspected first by Mexican officials and then again at the border when crossing into the U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is still hunting for the source of a salmonella outbreak linked to three types of raw tomatoes that has sickened 167 people in 17 U.S. states since mid-April. It has cleared imports from at least six countries, but not Mexico, which sends 80 percent of its tomato exports to the United States.

Mexican produce has been a problem before, so it is totally reasonable to scrutinize it again.

This FDA Import Alert is a perfect example. It reads in part "During 2000, 2001, and 2002, there were four multi-state Salmonellosis outbreaks traced back to Mexican cantaloupes." It also mentions, "Inspectional findings (conducted in response to the outbreaks) at a number of cantaloupe growing areas and packing sheds in Mexico reveal that Mexican cantaloupe are indeed manufactured, processed, or packed under gross insanitary conditions. Further, these inspections underscore the lack of an overall environmental sanitation program, as well as apparent lack of regulatory authority in Mexican law to address the insanitary conditions that FDA believes lead to Salmonella contamination."

Here's another example of what has previously been sent from Mexico. "This report describes a large hepatitis A outbreak associated with eating a food item containing green onions at a single restaurant. The majority of ill patrons interviewed as of November 21 were exposed during a 3-day period in early October. No ill food service worker identified could have been the source of the outbreak. The green onions likely were contaminated with HAV in the distribution system or during growing, harvest, packing, or cooling. Traceback investigations completed to date have determined that the green onion source is one or more farms in Mexico."

Another article says, "Salmonella was found in lobster tails, shrimp, fresh cooked crabmeat, chocolate candies, cantaloupes, pumpkin seeds, cilantro cooking sauce, instant tea, rice flour, ground guajillo pepper, oregano, fresh basil, and several types of tea from Mexico."

Just read between the lines folks, it's enough to gag a maggot.

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