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There seems to be at least some confusion and resistance to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) newest approach to the salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 1,200 people in 47 states. Now that tomatoes have been cleared as the source of the contamination and jalapeno peppers from a small Mexican packer are seen as a possible source, FDA is pushing for a voluntary recall of all jalapeno peppers in the US and is urging consumers who may have bought them to throw them out.

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that supermarkets in Southern California initially did not pull all the peppers from their shelves, but rather just those that came from Mexico. But then, after the FDA said that all peppers needed to be pulled – allegedly because it does not know where in the supply chain the contamination may have occurred – the chains there reversed themselves and pulled all the peppers.

At the same time, MNB got an email from a user who asked not to be identified by name – but who works for a food industry company east of the Mississippi River – who made the following point about the current recall:

The FDA, the MNB user wrote, has “discovered a problem at a small packer in McAllen, Texas, that handled Mexican peppers. For the last 3 months we have been buying all of our Jalapeno’s from Florida and South Carolina. We know exactly where our peppers came from and the growers who grew them, yet we and our retailers are required to throw them out. Now the FDA will attempt to correct the first mistake with a series of larger mistakes. You can trace the bad decisions on this situation.”

KC's View:
I suspect that these are not isolated cases, and that there is a lot of frustration in the produce community right now. One problem that the FDA has to address is how and where the salmonella contamination took place…but the longer-term problem may be how to restore an awful lot of lost credibility.