Why The Secrecy On
Inspection Agency Lab Results?
Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 25, 2007
In analyzing our second conversation with Dole Fresh Vegetables’ President, Eric Schwartz, we commented this way:
There is something wacky with the testing in this industry. Dole isn’t speaking yet, but if CFIA tested 40 bags and found one positive — the odds are that Dole’s retention samples will be negative. This means one of four things: 1) The tests are giving false positives and there was never any E. coli 0157:H7 there to begin with. 2) The E. coli 0157:H7 may really be there but it got there through contamination in the lab or somewhere else. 3) Our washing systems are effective but not perfect and we can get rid of 99.99% but still have to deal with small residues 4) E. coli 0157:H7 is so episodic that one bird on one plant can put it on one leaf and we sometimes can’t wash it off. If, as an industry, we need to be looking for these kind of minor events, we have to rethink our food safety programs all together.
Now we get official word from Dole:
Your article was correct in that all of our retain bags from the exact same batch came back negative for any pathogen.
— Eric Schwartz
Dole Fresh Vegetables
Freaky things happen and maybe this is just a quirky Act of God and one little leaf in a field got contaminated and didn’t wash off — but this seems straining as an interpretation.
Logically, we would look to the quality of the testing: Did the CFIA use approved methods of testing? What method was used? Was there, in fact, a confirmed positive? Has CFIA looked within its own lab and sampling method to see if there might be a possible cross contamination?
Remember, as we discussed here the True Leaf/Church Brothers episode was all caused by a lab error.
Unfortunately, the CFIA won’t give out any information. They will not share test results or the PFGE strips. They just repeat like a mantra that they took 40 bags, and broke them into 8 samples of 5 bags each.
This is a very serious matter. Reputations, businesses, whole industries can be destroyed based on government reports on these matters.
It is too important a matter to allow for possibly self-serving secrecy.
Both the companies involved and the public at large are entitled to complete transparency so that the possibility of error or malfeasance can be considered.
How do we know that CFIA isn’t covering up for the incompetence of its own lab? Perhaps one day a lab technician will be paid off by a competitor. The process has to be transparent or people will lose confidence.
There is not a reason in the world why CFIA doesn’t release the PFGE strips and the test results so other experts can at least review them for anomalies.