Mexico has announced that it has decided to allow the import of U.S. lettuce but not spinach. The United Fresh Produce Association sent along the news:
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE No. 620
October 19, 2006
The Mexican border opened for the California lettuce
The Secretariats of Health (SSA) and of Agriculture, Livestock and Rural Development, Fishery and Food (SAGARPA), inform:
After evaluating the available information regarding the possible contamination of lettuces coming from the United States of America, both Secretariats determined the non-existence risk to public health due to the consumption of this type of products.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) informed to the Mexican authorities about the results of the performed investigations regarding the possible contamination of products and assured that the analysis performed to water and lettuce samples were negative to E. coli O157:H7.
Nevertheless, FDA informed the Mexican authorities that five fields irrigated with contaminated water were disabled for production; the remaining product obtained from these fields was destroyed. Furthermore, FDA informed that no products have been cultivated in the involved fields nor in California or any other state.
As of today, the sanitary and epidemiological surveillance activities have not registered any case of disease associated to the consumption of lettuces coming from the United States of America. For the above-mentioned, the government from Mexico, through the appropriate authorities, has determined the complete border opening to this product.
Also, both Secretariats reiterate that in the case of the spinach, the ban to enter to the Mexican market is maintained. This restrictive measure, established by the Secretary of Health, is enforced at border points by the SAGARPA through its surveillance infrastructure in the ports, airports and borders.
Lastly, the Secretary of Health reiterates the population the importance of the appropriate handling and disinfection of fruits and vegetables before its consumption.
Just as we can’t depend on business to always do the right thing, so we need standards. The same applies to governments. We need standards and procedures that allow quick appeal of these decisions for perishable products. There’s too much risk of protectionism or political infighting motivating non-science-driven decisions.