When you’re In Mexico, A question of more than just food safety.

July 28th, 2008

The old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This quote is used to guide people to adapt to the culture of places that they visit. So I guess according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “When in America, only eat American grown jalapeño’s.”

Last week, the FDA cleared the U.S jalapeño crop which seems to have spared retailers and the produce industry from the fate of the Tomato crop. It is curious however that the amount of time it took the FDA to clear Tomato’s was so much longer than the time it took to clear jalapeño’s. That’s probably because of the size of the crop and the number of producers. Let’s hope that American producers don’t raise the price now because of increased demand.

Now the onus has been put on the consumer to determine where the peppers come from. When asked this question, Dr. David Acheson the FDA’s food safety chief said, you’re going to have to ask the person you are buying them from. Does that mean that since the FDA has said it is not safe to consume Mexican jalapeños’ that retailers are still allowed to buy them? Hopefully they are wearing sombreros.

This is one of the problems with product safety. Too many of the answers are not thought out and too much of the information occurs after the fact. In this author’s blog posting of July 11th, titled Holy Jalapeño I posited the following. It may take entrepreneurs to provide the answer. What is sorely needed is a database of manufacturers, suppliers, brokers, growers and products that can be searched in a variety of ways in order to trace goods to their original source of supply when situations like this occur. Safety is the key area of focus whether it is lead in toys or food-borne illnesses. It is incumbent on suppliers to provide this information freely and openly when it is asked of them. When a safety situation occurs the retailer-broker-supplier-distributor-grower chain can then be easily searched so that our limited government resources can be productive with their existing resources. Technology is the answer.

I have never intended for this blog to be a commercial for my company. However, SafeSourcing does have the beginnings of such a database with over 250,000 North American suppliers and another 9,000 from China. Today you can visit our website www.safesourcing.com and under the solutions tab select SafeSourceIt™ Query Tool. Once on the tool page, select major category grocery, sub category produce and country Mexico. In as little as 3 seconds you will know that there are 14 produce suppliers in this database from Mexico. The same query for the United States returns 672 suppliers. The database contains their address, phone number, email and other information. The next step we are working on is the traceability beyond two levels such as Retailer/Supplier. We would be happy to work with the FDA, USDA, Industry Groups or any other body to help provide an ultimate solution to the problem of safety and traceability. We are already part of the way there.

This is an industry problem that goes way beyond produce, to include problems such as lead in toys etc.

We look forward to you input, support and participation.

Ron Southard
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