Late in the afternoon on Monday, we received news of some food safety issues with carrots labeled as being from Mexico, packed in Los Angeles and distributed by Costco in Canada:
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning the public not to consume Los Angeles Salad Company Baby Carrots described below because the product may be contaminated with Shigella.
The affected product, Los Angeles Salad Company Genuine Sweet Baby Carrots, is labeled as product of Mexico and imported by Los Angeles Salad Company. It is sold in 672 g/1.5 lb plastic bags bearing ITM 50325, UPC 8 31129 00137 7 and Sell By dates up to and including 8 /13 /07.
This product was sold in Costco stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland.
There have been four confirmed illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.
Food contaminated with Shigella may not look or smell spoiled. Shigella infection can cause diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, nausea, and vomiting. Illness usually lasts from 4 to 14 days. In some persons, especially very young, and very old people and people with compromised immune systems, the diarrhea can be more severe. Infection can occur after eating and drinking food and water that is contaminated with Shigella and can be passed from person to person.
Costco Wholesale, Ottawa, Ontario, is voluntarily recalling the affected product from the marketplace. The CFIA is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall.
You can learn about Shigella here.
With all the talk about problems in food safety, one wonders if food safety is really the top priority in procurement. If you go to the Grimmway Farms web site, it says this about food safety:
Grimmway Farms knows that it’s important for you and your f October 1998. Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 110.amily to be confident in the safety of the produce you consume. Our safety standards are among the highest in the industry. Awarded Shield #002 for participation and acceptance in the USDA Qualified Through Verification (QTV) program.
Third party auditors include USDA, AIB, Siliker Labs, Scientific Certification Systems, Davis Fresh Technologies and many of our customers have excellent in-house audit programs as well.
Food Safety Standards and Fruits and VegetaGuidelines: Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh bles —
Good Agricultural Practices include monthly self-audits, quarterly third party program audits, and an annual intensive 3 day third party audit. Each field is audited prior to harvest. All new contracted growers must complete a self-audit as part of the contract. Audit reports may be reviewed by an additional third party.
Mock recalls are completed and documented often, with one of five most probable scenarios.
A new isolated Pathogen Laboratory for environmental testing provides us with results in 24 to 48 hours.
Perhaps the Mexican grower of these carrots had all these certifications. Perhaps not. Now anyone could have a problem and, in fact, we have no information that anyone has done anything wrong.
Still, it is hard to believe that Costco, which is the company pushing everyone in Salinas to test everything day and night, selected this roundabout pattern of having Mexican carrots, packed in Los Angeles and then distributed in Canada because it made the determination this was the route most likely to enhance food safety.
One bright spot — if we are going to have recalls a warehouse club is the best place to have them. Because one can’t purchase from Costco without a Costco membership card, every purchase is easily traceable. So Costco can quickly notify every consumer who bought the recalled product.
This creates a powerful argument for the use of loyalty cards at food retailers.