We?ve met the enemy and it?s us. Food safety challenges.

September 16th, 2008

Tomato?s are grown in Arizona

Tomato?s are grown in Arizona, shipped to Mexico and then sold in U.S. markets.

This author has written a lot about the Saint Paul salmonella health scare. I have also written about the benefits of NAFTA and the fact that rising fuel prices may bring production and manufacturing jobs back to North America. But what happens if these same forces conspire to mask problems from the FDA, USDA and other organizations as they try to research and solve these outbreaks.

An article in the Sunday edition of the Arizona Republic titled Fallout from Arizona?s employer sanctions laws discusses the issue of Arizona companies sending work to Mexico due to the high cost of labor in the United States. Specifically to our subject, is the example of Willcox based Eurofresh Farms picking their tomato crops at 5 a.m. and shipping them to the bordering Mexican state of Sonora to Collectron International Management Inc. for processing and reshipment back to the U.S. the same day.

Does anyone recall when during the tomato scare we were told not to eat Jalapeño?s processed in Mexico? My blog Holy Jalapeño discussed this issue. How much of our produce is processed in Mexico. Do Californian, Texan, New Mexican and other bordering states ship product to Mexico for processing? If so, what crops? Should we not have been eating any Jalapeño?s? Or, only those jalapeño?s grown in Mexico. This seems like another case of consumers not knowing what we don?t know. Are retailers aware that products they are buying for resale are being processed outside the U.S.? How do we know that these products are not mixed with products grown in Mexico?

This author believes that retailers and consumers should expect complete disclosure from our federal organizations. If indeed we all support traceable data within our supply chain, this is a perfect example of something that seems simple not being traceable by one forward one back methodology. In fact, one back from the retailer might be Eurofresh Farms in this case. What would not be readily apparent is the step to Mexico or any potential introduction of Mexican grown products into the cycle. That would require at least two back and maybe three or four back.

Let?s all support true traceability and full disclosure of where our products come from.

We look forward to your comments.

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