Trevor Suslow Of UC Davis Speaks Out:
Reflecting On Pathogens, Produce, And Practices
Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, October 23, 2011
Trevor Suslow is Extension Research Specialist, Preharvest to Postharvest Produce Safety at the University Of California, Davis. There is nobody in the world who has spent more time studying the food safety issues surrounding cantaloupes. In light of the Jensen Farms outbreak, we are pleased to share this reflective piece:
Trevor is a good person and, without a doubt, he has been shaken to the core of his being with the thought that a supply chain to which he has offered much counsel should now be responsible for such loss.
We can only endorse the idea that this is a time for reflection.
Trevor is also 100% correct that we are hearing in the industry too many attempts to demonize Jensen Farms.
As we mentioned in this piece, Jensen Farms may have made mistakes but the kind of mistakes it made could well happen again to other people in other contexts.
Demonizing them as somehow off the scale of produce operations has the convenient, and false, effect of making everyone feel like it couldn’t happen to them.
People are always responsible for their actions, so if Jensen Farms made errors, its owner and executives are, of course, responsible. But those who bought the product and sold it to consumers made errors of oversight, and these people and organizations are responsible for the errors they made as well.
If you believe in the regulatory state, you also have to say that regulators failed in their responsibility to articulate and enforce clear standards that would have prevented such a problem.
As Hillary Clinton taught us, “It takes a village,” she was referencing the fact that children are raised in an environment, and what that environment supports makes it easier or harder for parents to raise their children as they would choose to.
Well, so it is with food safety. Every operation exists in an ecosystem. We need to ask if that overall ecosystem — legal, regulatory, buying end, etc. — is the sort that encourages the thoughts and actions that lead to food safety.
Jensen Farms seems to have failed, but it did not fail alone.
Many thanks to Trevor Suslow for sharing his informed thoughts with the industry at large.