Canadian Poultry Magazine

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Yes, we have no tomatoes


June 25, 2008
By Jim Knisley


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Sometimes you really don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Sometimes you really don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

If you doubt that just ask U.S. tomato producers.

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In the past month, they’ve seen consumption drop (by some estimates) up to 60 per cent. The value of those lost sales would be bad enough but they also face a host of other costs.

These can range from the simple – our tomatoes are safe ads – to the complex and costly testing required to prove that the tomatoes are in fact safe.

And we haven’t even got to the lawyer stuff yet. With 652 people across 34 states reported infected with Salmonella Saintpaul and the expectation of hundreds or thousands of unreported cases, the lawyers are no doubt watching with anticipation.

As this is written – almost three months after the initial outbreaks – investigators are still trying to track down the source of the Salmonella.

The longer this goes on the more money will be spent and lost and more importantly the less faith the U.S. public will have in food safety and the institutions that are supposed to ensure it.

It didn’t have to get this bad. Even if there was nothing that could have been done to prevent Salmonella from infesting the tomatoes in the first place a strong food tracking system could have quickly stopped the spread.

If tomato deliveries were tagged and coded investigators could have quickly determined where consumers bought the tomatoes, where the retailer got them, where they were packed and where produced.

Farmers often complain that such systems are cumbersome and costly, but are they more costly than watching as 60 per cent of sales disappear. And are they more cumbersome than facing down a horde of lawyers.