It was simultaneously a moment of poignancy and good sense when during United’s conference call held to update its members and solicit input and ideas regarding the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, Drew McDonald, Vice President of Quality Systems at Taylor Farms, basically asked this question: How is it possible that we have gotten to the point that top FDA and CDC officials are holding national press conferences in front of the most important media and speculating almost randomly about highly unlikely events — such as the outbreak being caused by one farm that had been growing tomatoes during the early part of the outbreak and then switched over to jalapenos in the latter stages of the outbreak?
Drew pointed out that there were actually people directly involved and knowledgeable about the pepper industry. Why didn’t the FDA gather together a group of these experts and get these questions answered up front so that the FDA and CDC people could avoid this harmful and distracting speculation when real knowledge is available?
Of course, Drew was 100% correct, and it is in many ways unfair to ask Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of United Fresh, or any association executive to explain or justify such behavior.
Supposedly things are getting a little better, but one really wants to say of these high-IQ people at CDC and FDA that they just spent one year too long in graduate school and have simply lost touch with the real world, the limits of their knowledge, the effects of their actions on others.
Drew is a smart guy, very knowledgeable on food safety and well connected. If asked, he would have helped solve this problem — but the CDC and FDA suffer from a “not invented here” complex.
Trying to use only its own resources is slowing down these investigations and thus injuring public health along with decimating industries. This madness simply must stop. And we have to work on Congress to make it stop. We can’t hope that FDA and CDC will reform themselves from within.