Mexico reels from tomato salmonella outbreak - The Packer

Mexico reels from tomato salmonella outbreak

06/26/2008 12:00:00 AM
Jose Escobedo

That wait is problematic, grower-shippers said, because product can sit idle for up to 10 days, and isn’t getting any fresher in the meantime.

Although the FDA has still not cleared the states of Sinaloa, Coahuila and Jalisco, once the lab results show no signs of salmonella, the tomatoes from those states can be sold in U.S. markets, grower-shippers said. Dajlala said after the FDA turns in the results, the tomatoes are cleared and ready to be sold in the U.S.

Although Dajlala is able to sell the tomatoes once tests clear them, he said he prefers not to.

“After eight days, the tomatoes are in a bad condition and the color is very red,” Dajlala said.

Despite the FDA’s traceback efforts, some growers said they are not satisfied with the way the agency has been handling the situation.

“They have cleared people that were not in production, and they got cleared right away,” Salinas said. “I understand that the safety of the American people comes first, but I think we should have had a quicker response timeframe from the FDA, and it should have been a while back.”

Market saturation

While Mexican officials and FDA officials continue to make progress in this matter, Mexico City’s Central de Abasto, considered the largest wholesale market in the world, has seen tomato saturation in June.

“The biggest repercussion in this salmonella crisis is that tomato prices have gone down between 15% and 20%,” said Raymundo Collins Flores, general director and administrator of the market.

The central market in Guadalajara, Jalisco, the Unión de Comerciantes del Mercado de Abastos de Guadalajara, A.C. (UCMA), also has seen an oversupply of tomatoes lying around its stalls.

“When we received the FDA’s news (of the outbreak) we saw an increase in tomatoes in the market and the prices went down,” said José Luis Guzmán González, president of UCMA. “Now we are handling normal quantities of tomatoes, and the prices have stabilized. This crisis has definitely affected Jalisco growers.”

Hoping for quick resolution

Representatives from SENASICA (Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria), Mexico's equivalent to the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and U.S. officials met in Washington DC June 16-20 to discuss specific analysis on the salmonella advisory.

SENASICA director Enrique Sanchez Cruz said the FDA and SENASICA are working together in this matter, and he hopes that by early-to-mid-July, the FDA will release its conclusion on the outbreak affecting Sinaloa, Coahuila and Jalisco.

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