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Carrot Juice Still On Canadian Shelves

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, October 12, 2006

There is outrage in Canada that even though two people have been paralyzed after they contracted botulism in the Bolthouse carrot juice outbreak, the carrot juice — despite being officially recalled — was still on the shelf in Canada:

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency warned consumers on September 30 not to drink Bolthouse Farms 100% Carrot Juice, Earthbound Farm Organic Carrot Juice and President’s Choice Organics 100% Pure Carrot Juice, all of U.S. origin, “due to botulism concerns.”

Canadian distributors had immediately recalled the contaminated products. But as of Monday night, Toronto officials found the juice in 11 of 788 stores checked during a four-day blitz, said Rishma Govani, spokeswoman for Toronto Public Health.

And the accumulated weight of the spinach recall, green leaf lettuce recall and Bolthouse carrot juice recall is having other effects:

The problems with carrot juice are the latest in a string of serious illnesses linked to fresh produce in Canada and the U.S. in recent weeks. Three people died and nearly 200 were sickened, including one woman in Ontario, after eating spinach contaminated with E. coli bacteria in the last month.

In Ontario, more than 30 people became ill, including five who had to be hospitalized, last month after eating what officials believe was fresh produce — possibly lettuce — that was contaminated with E. coli. On Monday, U.S.-based Nunes Co. recalled some Foxy brand green-leaf lettuce because it was irrigated with contaminated water. An official said none of the lettuce had made its way to Canada.

The rash of recent problems should send a strong message that Canada must reassess the amount of produce it imports, particularly from California, which produces about 18 per cent of North America’s fresh produce, said Keith Warriner, professor of food microbiology at the University of Guelph.

He said U.S. health officials have been warning California’s food industry to clean up its act for the last few years, but that message seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The Canadian government should take action to ensure food grown in contaminated, dirty conditions doesn’t make its way here, Warriner sad.

“‘I certainly say we should reconsider until California gets their act together,”’ he said. “‘We have to be fairly careful about what fresh produce we’re bringing into the country … There’s been multiple outbreaks. It starts to bring into question, how safe is that produce?”’

The answer, of course, is that by statistical measures, we are far safer than many things we do in life. Although many fewer North Americans fly airplanes than eat fresh California grown produce, many more people have died on airplanes in the last ten years than have died from eating produce.

The good professor should be doing statistical analysis to answer his own question rather than posing these questions as if they are great mysteries to be unraveled.

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