Michigan may have
false positive in salmonella case
State officials say faulty
test led to recall of NewStar Fresh Foods cilantro
By MARIE VASARI
Herald Staff Writer
Updated: 08/01/2008 09:43:49 AM PDT
Source of Article: http://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_10065138
Faulty test results by Michigan public health
officials could have led to an unnecessary produce recall by Salinas-based NewStar Fresh Foods on Wednesday.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture notified NewStar
Fresh Foods on Thursday that a test result previously thought to be a
positive for salmonella in a sample of fresh cilantro was found not to be a
likely indicator of the presence of the pathogen, according to a statement
released by the Salinas grower-shipper.
Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young
children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture's initial findings led the company
to issue a nationwide recall Wednesday of 1,100 cartons of its fresh bagged
cilantro products to food service customers in 23 states and several Canadian
Company officials did not respond to phone calls requesting comment.
According to a release from NewStar, company
president Mark Drever said the faulty test result
was "an unfortunate mistake" and said all parties involved have the
safety and well-being of consumers as their priority.
"We will work closely with all regulatory agencies involved to
improve testing protocols and to ensure that the lines of communication
remain open in order to protect the public health," Drever
said in the statement.
Official confirmation of the test results are expected next week.
Bob Perkins, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, said
false positives and inaccurate test results are not unheard of in the food
safety testing process, but he said the industry's stance is that it is
preferable to err on the side of caution.
"It's too bad that it happened," said Perkins, "but the
industry has generally understood that we don't need another food-borne
illness outbreak. The industry has taken the position that we won't take
chances for public health."
A test result that indicates the presence of a pathogen — even if it later
turns out to be a flawed reading — is a valid reason to issue a recall, he
"I haven't heard anybody speaking against an agency taking action to
prevent illness," he said.
Western Growers communications manager Paul Simonds
said his organization was awaiting more details about the recall. But
ultimately, he said, the announcement that the recall might have been a false
alarm is, on many levels, good news for the fresh produce industry.