Tomato Growers Want Compensation Over Salmonella Warning
USAgNet - 08/06/2008

 

            Source of Article:  http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com/story-national.php?Id=1831&yr=2008


Tomato growers can thwack the Food and Drug Administration next week, but their try for federal funds could be a long shot. Two separate congressional hearings will enable California and Florida growers to bash the FDA for supposedly blowing a recent salmonella outbreak. Regulators initially raised warning flags about tomatoes, costing farmers a bundle before suspicions turned to jalapeņo peppers.

"Clearly, the FDA has done a very poor job at tracking this outbreak," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif. "They blamed the wrong industry."

Cardoza chairs the House horticulture and organic agriculture subcommittee, one of two House panels convening food safety hearings next week. The other panel, an oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, recently sent investigators to California's Central Valley to delve into the problem.

Finger-pointing, though, may be easier than finding viable fixes.

Four Florida lawmakers--Democratic Reps. Allen Boyd and Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Republican Reps. Adam Putnam and Vern Buchanan--have introduced legislation compensating tomato growers and packers nationwide for their losses during the latest salmonella scare. The Florida Tomato Exchange pegs those losses at $100 million.

Few doubt the FDA's warnings hurt business. California tomato exports to Canada have dropped by one-third, and retail tomato sales between San Diego and Seattle were down at least 40 percent in June, according to Ed Beckman of the Fresno-based California Tomato Farmers.

On June 7, the FDA issued a nationwide warning against eating several types of raw tomatoes. On July 17, the agency removed that tomato warning and declared instead that raw jalapeņo and raw Serrano peppers "may be linked" to salmonella. On Monday, regulators announced they had found a contaminated Mexican-grown pepper at a produce distribution center in McAllen, Texas.

 

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