FDA lifts import alert on two Mexican cuke growers

07/23/2013 02:15:00 PM
Coral Beach

Federal officials lifted an import alert on Mexican cucumbers that were linked to a salmonella outbreak earlier this year.

The U.S. Public Health Service notified importers July 17, stating that growers Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse of Culiacán “have met the criteria for removal from detention without physical examination.” The notice did not include details about the investigation or outbreak.

Officials at an import company that has worked with the growers since 1949 say no salmonella was found on their cucumbers. The Food and Drug Administration named Tricar Sales Inc., Nogales, Ariz., and the growers after ill consumers reported eating cucumbers; a traceback investigation led to the three companies, according to the FDA.

Rod Sbragia, sales and marketing director for Tricar Sales, said the FDA did not find positive salmonella results from testing cucumbers. In a letter to customers, Sbragia said tests by Tricar and third-party investigators showed no salmonella in the cukes, the soil, water or contact surfaces involved in Mexico and at Tricar’s warehouse in Nogales.

“While we (Tricar and the Mexican growers) were implicated, nothing was ever proven,” Sbragia said July 23.

The FDA put the Mexican growers’ cucumbers on the import alert list April 25 in relation to an 18-state outbreak of salmonella that ultimately sickened 84 people. The illnesses began Jan. 12 and continued through April 28, according to the final case update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

FDA officials told Tricar in April that no recall was necessary because the suspect cucumbers would have already been out of the supply chain.

In the most recent update, posted June 21, the agency said “Reviewing shipping records, with assistance from its partner state agencies, FDA traced cucumbers eaten by seven people who were made sick during the outbreak to the importer and further, to the suppliers.”

FDA spokesman Doug Karas said July 23 that the two Mexican growers have been removed from the import alert list, but could not propvide any details regarding the agency’s investigation other than those reported in the June 21 update.

Sbragia said most of Tricar’s customers stuck with them during the investigation. Tricar continued operating by using cucumbers from other farms. Sbragia said cucumbers account for 40% to 50% of Tricar’s business. The importer ships more than 2 million packages — 55 to 58 pounds each — annually, Sbragia said.



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