When should the consuming public be informed a food may make them barf? Under what conditions should a food be recalled or pulled from commerce? What guidelines exist that can be publicly scrutinized and improved?
Another confusing chapter to the when to go public saga was added when Arizona-grown lettuce was pulled from some supermarkets in late Dec. after lettuce from a nearby field tested positive for salmonella.
Mike Hornick of The Packer writes that Growers Express’ decision to pull iceberg lettuce from the market after a nearby field tested positive for salmonella appears to be an unprecedented food safety step, but many peers agreed with the company’s “abundance of caution.”
Chief executive officer Jamie Strachan said on Jan. 5, “Our response is in line with what any other responsible company would do. We have a responsibility to protect public health, and it is always better to err on the side of caution.”
The Kroger retail chain publicized the withdrawal, which led to no known illnesses, New Year’s weekend, and it was picked up in many consumer media outlets.
Joe Pezzini, chief operating officer of Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms and a California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement board member, said he doesn’t remember a similar case, but details set instances apart.
“What it does speak to is the really heightened precaution companies are taking regarding any possible risk of contamination. Every business in that situation is going to have to assess that for themselves. You’d really have to know the details and come to a conclusion on what the prudent reaction is.”
Hank Giclas, senior vice president for science and technology at Western Growers, Irvine, Calif., agreed.
“It’s a hard decision to make, and to make it means they’re acting in the public interesd. There must have been compelling information to withdraw the product. If you believe there may be potential for your product to be contaminated, it’s the responsible thing to withdraw or hold it.”
“We are not immediately aware of any other farms taking this precaution, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened,” said Sebastian Cianci, spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration.