Efficient work on papayas indicates crisis management maturity

PHARR, TX — In the wake of a Salmonella Kiambu link to one brand of yellow Maradol papayas from Mexico, there were several positive signs that the U.S. food industry is maturing in the case of foodborne disease.

On July 21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention issued an advisory not to eat yellow Maradol papayas due to the possibility of the presence of Salmonella Kiambu. The infections had been traced back to Caribeña, a brand Maradol papayas from Mexico.

By July 25, leading Mexican papaya importers in south Texas, which is the major receiving point for Mexican fruit, said that retailers were aware of the limited scope of the outbreak.DanteDante Galeazzi of the Texas International Produce Association.

Mexican papaya importers said July 25 that they had received new Maradol papaya orders from a major retailer in the early evening of July 24.

Dante Galeazzi, president and chief executive officer of the Texas International Produce Association, based in Mission, TX, credited CDC and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for their restraint in announcing their concerns.

Galeazzi said the first infections manifested themselves in May, but the health organizations conducted a great deal of investigative work to assure their health concerns were very narrow and accurate.

While this still caused a disruption of Mexican papaya sales to retailers for a few days, the short-term impact on the industry was not devastating, as has been the case with other announcements over the years.

It's a lengthy list of industries that have been devastated by false associations. The Chilean grape and Florida tomato industries stand among leading innocent victims of inaccurate health alarms.

Galeazzi was coordinating efforts with food-safety experts at PMA and United Fresh, who in turn were working with CDC and FDA on these matters.

The hope is that the crisis was solved quickly enough to prevent lasting consequences for papaya grower-distributors or the broader industry through the suggestion that fresh produce may be unsafe.

The importer of the Caribeña brand Maradol papayas is Grande Produce Ltd. Co., located in nearby San Juan, TX. Calls to meet with Grande on July 25 were not returned.

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