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Andrew & Williamson donates to STOP Foodborne Illness, urges industry to join

The produce company embroiled in a deadly Salmonella outbreak and cucumber recall announced last week it had donated to a non-profit group’s campaign aimed at improving foodborne disease diagnosis and it urged other produce companies to do the same.

So far, the epidemiological investigation has identified slicer cucumbers imported from Mexico and distributed by San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce as a likely source of an outbreak that has sickened over 500 people and led to three deaths.

On Sept. 4, the San Diego-based company recalled all cucumbers sold under the “Limited Edition” brand label between Aug. 1-Sept. 3, 2015, and investigators have since isolated one of the Salmonella Poona outbreak strains from cucumbers collected during a visit to the facility.

Andrew & Williamson issued several statements about the ongoing investigation once the recall was announced, but last week the distributor issued an unusual call to action on the need to speed diagnosis of these diseases.

In a Sept. 25 statement, Andrew & Williamson Partner David Murray said the firm is “absolutely devastated” by the outbreak and is working with authorities in the United States and Mexico authorities, as well as food-safety experts, to analyze its processes and fix any problems.

“On a personal note, in reading information about the illnesses, it was clear that many doctors need additional guidance to ensure the timely diagnosis and treatment of food-borne illnesses,” he said. “With that in mind, we will be making a donation to STOP Foodborne Illness, a non-profit organization devoted to assisting those impacted by foodborne illness.”

“This donation is in support of STOP's efforts to create an educational packet about foodborne illness to send to every pediatric emergency room and hospital in the U.S. so that patients receive a timely diagnosis and proper treatment.”

He continued, “While we recognize that our actions cannot alleviate the pain caused by a victim's suffering or worse, the loss of a loved one, the A&W family promises you that we will learn from this experience. We will never forget what happened. And you can rest assured that our food safety decisions will forever be influenced by the memory of consumers who have been impacted by this recall.”

He called on other produce companies to consider donating to this organization so educated health professionals can make faster diagnosis of foodborne disease with the hope of alleviating suffering and saving lives.

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