Thursday, July 31, 2008 - 1:58 PM EDT

Agriculture commissioner blasts FDA in handling of salmonella outbreak

 

Source of Article:  http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/stories/2008/07/28/daily26.html

 

Florida's agriculture commissioner on Thursday blasted the way the U.S. Food and Drug Administration handled the recent outbreak of salmonella poisoning that sickened more than 1,300 people and cost American tomato growers more than $300 million.

At a congressional subcommittee meeting, Charles Bronson, the state's food safety regulator, said the FDA's decision to limit the information it shared with states made it difficult to assist them.

In addition, Bronson said that had the FDA asked states to provide it with information - such as if local farmers were even growing the suspect product and what stage of harvest it might be in - it might have been able to narrow the focus of its investigation.

"One of our greatest frustrations is that Florida was as implicated as Mexico from the very beginning of the investigation, yet a simple review of the number of salmonella cases per state showed that the vast majority were concentrated in the West," Bronson told the subcommittee.

On Wednesday, federal officials said they had traced the outbreak to irrigation water and peppers grown on a farm in Mexico, but also have refused to completely clear tomatoes as carriers of the bacteria.

Bronson said the losses to Florida farmers are still being calculated, but they are in the millions of dollars.


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