Mexico reels from tomato salmonella outbreak - The Packer

Mexico reels from tomato salmonella outbreak

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

Sanchez Cruz also said that there will be no trade ramifications and that NAFTA will not be changed. In addition, he said that Mexico is still exporting tomatoes to other countries, such as Canada.

Jerry Wagner, sales and marketing director for Nogales, Ariz.-based Farmer’s Best International LLC, which sources most of its tomatoes from Sinaloa, said the FDA advisory caught Farmer’s Best at the end of the roma deal out of La Cruz, Mexico.

If the advisory had occured in February, the outcome may have been tragic with several Nogales-area companies possibly going bankrupt, Wagner said.

George Gotsis, of Nogales-based Omega Produce, whose family has been in the tomato growing business since 1920, said the FDA advisory took him by surprise.

If the FDA alert had been issued during Sinaloa’s peak season, Gotsis said it would have been “a complete and absolute disaster.”

Approximately 200,000 to 300,000 tomatoes would have been lost per day in Sinaloa, he said.

Trying to speed the search process

Culiacan-based CAADES (Confederation of Agriculture Associations of the State of Sinaloa) has been working with the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, to provide information to the FDA and SAGARPA, Mexico’s Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food, to help expedite the search for the source of the outbreak.

“We have been in contact with the FDA, providing information, explaining how regions of Mexico work and what the distributing channels look like so they can really understand the Mexican tomato deal,” said Allison Moore, FPAA’s communications manager.

“The most important thing is to complete the traceback as soon as possible so we can isolate the problem,” Moore said.

But the damage to many of Mexico’s growers has already been done, and it may be irreparable to some.

“I don’t blame (the FDA) for the precautions they are taking, but it really hurts,” Salinas said. “They can clear Jalisco, but it’s going to be weeks before this thing goes back to normal. It has hurt us all.”

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