UPDATED: Industry says produce unfairly blamed in 'risky foods' report

10/08/2009 09:20:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Stewart said the produce industry prefers to collaborate with legislators and regulators on the proposals.

She said the industry has been working with Congress and agencies for more than a year to educate them on specific food safety challenges so lawmakers can regulate produce to help promote produce safety and public health.

The potato industry issued a response and included safe handling recommendations in an Oct. 6 news release.

The Denver-based U.S. Potato Board said naming potatoes on the list requires some clarification to avoid raising unnecessary alarm or consumer confusion.

“Potatoes are inherently healthy and are not an inherently risky food and they should not be on this list at all,” said Tim O'Connor, the board’s president and chief executive officer, in a news release. “The issue is cross-contamination, not the potato itself.”

The center admits it included potatoes in its list because of improper handling of prepared foods such as potato salad in foodservice settings or in home kitchens.

Though problems involving individual commodities such as potatoes may involve post-cooking problems, the Centers for Disease Control did link potatoes to outbreaks, said Sarah Klein, CSPI’s staff attorney and lead author of the study.

“We are hoping a list like this will do several things, like draw attention to where the problems are so that Congress can finally take action on comprehensive FDA reform,” she said. “We will make sure that happens this fall. The FDA needs greater authority to protect the public health. We hope this report will really draw in stark relief exactly what is at stake if no action is taken.”

The Center for Produce Safety at the University of California-Davis plans to review the study.

Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director, said the industry’s research arm plans to look at this report like any other report for possible research insight.

“All reports are important,” she said. “Our approach will be to utilize our technical committee and review what’s been put out there.


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