Friday, April 26, 2013


Are Mexican cucumbers unsafe to eat? The current wave of cucumber-linked Salmonella-illnesses in the United States is believed to be caused by cucumbers imported from Mexico. This is the second time this year that the U.S. has received Salmonella contaminated cucumbers from this trading partner. Is it safer to just not eat them?

In February, we had a small cucumber recall by Altiza Inc, of Chula Vista, California. The contaminated product, Malichita brand cucumbers, were only distributed in California. Although I found no specific statement as to where these cucumbers were grown, my research suggests that they probably came from Agropecuario Malichita. This company grows and exports cucumbers as well as other produce, including to the U.S. and Canada. All of its farms are all located in Mexico. In 2006, there was also an outbreak of Salmonella in Malachita brand cantaloupes, which were identified as originating in Mexico.

The currently ongoing illnesses in 18 states are linked to contaminated cucumbers supplied by Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse and identified as grown in Culiacán, Mexico. These Mexican firms are now not allowed to send cucumbers into the U.S. unless they can show that the cucumbers are not contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. (I don't really know how they can prove this conclusively unless they have an independent laboratory test every cucumber - which would be impossibly costly.)

Nor are these the first cases of produce from Mexico being contaminated. It happens frequently. No wonder. So much of the fresh produce eaten in the U.S. originates in Mexico. In fact, Mexico is by far the most important supplier of fresh produce to the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that fully 69% of U.S. fresh vegetable import value ($4.05 billion) and 37% of U.S. fresh fruit import value ($2.86 billion) was accounted for by Mexican imports.

So what about Mexican cucumbers? I checked the latest USDA commodity shipment data for cucumbers for the spring season, 2013. Mexico was far ahead of any other country, with 638,440,000 pounds of Mexican cucumbers ending up in the U.S.

Want to eat cucumbers? Particularly if cost is an issue, and it is the off-season in the U.S., we might have little choice. Greenhouse cucumbers are more expensive by far. But remember that any imported produce, including from Mexico, is checked and regulated by the U.S.

To your good health,

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