After the November 2018 crisis of E. coli-contaminated romaine lettuce, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh) brought together more than 100 stakeholders. The report can be found at either www.pma.com or www.unitedfresh.org.
Preventing outbreaks must remain the top priority said Cathy Burns, PMA and Tom Stenzel, United Fresh, in a joint statement. “We’ve supported the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement when its Board took the monumental step of determining that surface water should be assumed to be contaminated and in need of treatment if overhead application occurs within 21 days of harvesting leafy greens. And while ag water was our initial focus related to this outbreak, we are now convening a deeper subset of experts to evaluate the risks of concentrated animal feeding operations and recommend preventive strategies for potential environmental contamination from beyond our farms.”
The second priority is achieving full-chain traceability for produce. “We know this is hard, and takes the cooperation and investment of every sector of our industry from grower to retailer and restaurant. But we simply have to get there – if not, we put additional consumers at risk with long and drawn out investigations and cost our industry hundreds of millions of dollars in ancillary damages when a targeted recall is all that’s needed.”
Improving collaboration and communication between industry and government is the third priority.
“We need to address the systemic barriers between regulatory agencies and industry in order to narrow outbreaks as quickly as possible and prevent overly broad “do not eat” advisories. Industry and government also have the responsibility to conduct investigations when an issue occurs and determine the root cause of how a product became contaminated. Moving from one outbreak to the next without deeply understanding what went wrong is a failing strategy, and one our industry can no longer afford.”
Source: Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association September 30, 2019 joint statement