Two separate recalls focus on Listeria. Listeria can be difficult to identify when tracking down the source of an outbreak because it can take up to 70days for symptoms to appear. By that time patients have been exposed to a whole range of potential foods that could be responsible for their illness.
The first involved Gill’s Onions, based in Oxnard, Calif., who issued voluntary recalls of diced and slivered onions because of a possible risk of listeriosis (company press release). The recalls started on July 19, 2012 with the original recall of diced and slivered red and yellow onions and diced celery and onion mix. Gills expanded the recall on July 26, 2012 to include diced, slivered, and whole peeled onions and diced onion/celery mix with use-by dates on or before August 3, 2012. At least fifteen derivative recalls have been announced.
Separately, a North Carolina grower has recalled cantaloupes, also citing worries about listeria contamination. As the LA Times notes in its report the two Listeria outbreaks come at a time where pending FSMA rules are part of a growing critique on food safety. Food safety advocates claim the slow implementation of FSMA is placing consumers at risk.
The FSMA rules -in particular the produce safety rule – will not result in an instaneous change. The rule will take time to implement, both by the FDA and by producers. Given the tardiness of the rule and its suggested complexity the FDA has continue to affirm that it will not immediately enforce the new rule. Produce safety will take time, even under the new rules.
Producers best practice in the mean time is to continue to test for microbiological contamination and conduct mock recalls. Removing product quickly and properly notifying consumers is crucial in mitigating exposure to contaminated food. The only way to know if your team is ready is to be scored on a mock recall.
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