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American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur



Little Food Safety Progress
Leads Media To Look Closer
At Our Industry

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, April 18, 2008

With all the efforts the food industry is taking to enhance food safety, the overall national effort doesn’t seem to be having much effect. The latest assessment is leading to headlines such as CDC Says Not Much Progress in Fight Against Foodborne Illness:

Significant declines in the incidence of foodborne illness were reported from 1996, when the surveillance program began, to 2004, but there has been little, if any, continued decline in such illnesses. For 2007, Cryptosporidium-related outbreaks actually increased from the number of incidences reported from 2004 to 2006. Minor declines deemed insignificant were seen for illnesses caused by E. coli 0157, Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria, Campylobacter, Vibrio, and Yersinia.

Reports such as these are excellent reminders that the industry must not become complacent. The incidence of these pathogens are sufficiently low that going a few years without a major outbreak can be nothing more than a statistical quirk. It doesn’t mean that the problem is solved.

These announcements have led reporters to go back and look at industry and see how it is dealing with food safety. NBC Nightly News, for example, ran a piece entitled Field of ‘Clean’ Greens. It includes interviews with Jim Lugg, food safety director, Fresh Express who we have mentioned several times including here and Dirk Giannini of Christensen & Giannini who is a prominent grower in Monterey County.

The industry came off pretty well in the news report. I suppose a PR maven would tell Dirk to emphasize a less pecuniary interest in food safety, but we thought he came across as very honest.

Jim Lugg probably spoke to the reporter for three hours so the editors could select out two seconds of Jim saying that the food safety problems in Salinas had been caused by farmers “getting a little careless about where they plant their crop.”

Although the report points out that the produce of Fresh Express “has never caused an outbreak,” we wonder if Jim Lugg doesn’t need expanded responsibilities. After all, the Chiquita side of the company had to recall Honduran cantaloupes just like many others.

You can catch the video here:

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