More questions than answers in salmonella scare
of Article: http://www.themonitor.com/articles/answers-28707-mcallen-questions.html
July 20, 2009 -
McALLEN — A local
produce company continued recalling fresh cilantro Monday as investigators
tried to figure out who bought the potentially salmonella-tainted salsa
Just where the 104 15-pound crates of
cilantro ended up remains unclear. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration
said Monday that it could not provide a list of what restaurants or
retailers might have bought the leafy green because most of the purchases
at Sweet Superior Fruit LTD. were made with cash. It also did not say how
much of the produce had been sold.
“A list of customers is not available,”
Stephanie Kwisnek, a spokeswoman for the agency, wrote in an e-mail.
On Sunday, the agency disclosed that a
routine test of imported produce uncovered that cilantro sold from July 13
to 16 in the 15-pound black plastic crates at the Sweet Superior Fruits’
facility at the McAllen Produce Terminal Market could be contaminated with
salmonella, a food-borne bacteria that can cause serious and sometimes
Company officials did not return calls
seeking comment Monday. And a phone number for the company that the FDA
urged consumers with questions to call went unanswered most of the day.
The facility at 2501 W. Military Highway
was closed Monday afternoon. A woman, who answered the phone at the company
late Monday, said no one would be available for comment until today.
While the source of the cilantro has not
been disclosed, the produce was most likely grown in Mexico. A sign above
the company‘s facility advertises Mexican-grown products.
No one has been sickened because of the
cilantro, according to the FDA.
The local produce industry is watching
the case closely, but so far does not fear a repeat of last summer when a
salmonella outbreak and scare hurt sales, said John McClung, president of
the Texas Produce Association in Mission.
In 2008, jalapeños grown in Mexico and
packed in McAllen sickened more than a thousand people. During a nearly two-month
investigation, health officials at times recalled a host of other
vegetables as it tried to determine what produce actually caused the
Farmers and the produce industry were
critical of the FDA at the time for not quickly determining the source and
for issuing recalls and warnings for products that weren’t tainted.
“When there are problems, you have to
have a very quick and effective trace back system so you can ferret out
(what is contaminated and where it was grown),” McClung said. “This individual
incident does not appear at this point to be one that is going to get a
great deal of attention.”