An industrialized food supply, such as the one in the United States, certainly makes food safety more difficult. Take the presently ongoing recall of grape tomatoes. It's Salmonella bacteria again (there are 30 posts on Salmonella already on this blog). Here are the facts so far - and I would guess that this recall will expand in the days to come.
It all started with a farm based in Estero, Florida, USA. They sent their grape tomatoes to Six L Packing Company, another Florida-based enterprise, that packages and distributes food products. According to Hoover's, Six-L packs and ships over 15 million boxes of tomatoes a year to other food companies and retailers in California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia, as well as Canada. In New York, a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector found that some of these tomatoes tested positive for Salmonella bacteria. As often happens, the test results came a little late. At least two of Six L's clients had already sent them to our stores.
Taylor Farms Pacific Inc., which is based in Tracy, California, had used them to produce some 60 kinds of fresh salads. They were being sold in plastic trays at deli counters in key supermarkets including Albertsons, Raley's, Safeway, Savemart, Sam's Club and Walmart stores across the West and some Midwestern United States. (See post May 3).
Wait - it gets weirder. Mastronardi Produce of Kingsville, Ontario (yes, that's Canada), also received some of the Six L grape tomatoes and is selling them under labels of "Aldi From the Vine (where else would they come from?) Grape Tomatoes", "Sunset Grape Tomatoes", and "Trader Joe's Splendido Little Tomatoes" all in neat little clamshell packages. And where are these being sold? Well, back we come across the border to the U.S. The Trader Joe's ones are being sold only in Eastern Seaboard and Midwest Locations. The others are sold in several other states (IL, MI, WI, FL, MA, MD, NJ, MD, OH, TX, WI). Did you notice, by the way, that some of those cute little grape tomatoes came right back to Florida again - presumably, from Ontario, Canada, under a new name?
Now comes my punchline. On April 26 - just about a week ago - representatives of Mastronardi Produce/SUNSET® were in Washington DC to accept the prestigious Dupont Food Quality Award for 2010. This award honors a North American business for outstanding food safety initiatives (There is a nice photo on their website of the award presentation). Mastronardi Produce won because “all aspects of the business appear to be aligned toward producing high quality, safe food within a sustainable environment.”
Hmm..Bad luck Mastronardi. You had better change the source for your grape tomatoes if you want to get the award next year.