Subcommittee Reviews Produce Traceability Issues as Salmonella Outbreak Investigation Continues

Jul 30, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture held a hearing to review issues related to the traceability of fresh produce, particularly in cases related to foodborne illnesses.

Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) called the hearing in the wake the recent outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul illnesses first thought to be associated with tomatoes and later linked to jalapeño and serrano peppers from Mexico.

 “Frankly, we want to know what in the heck went wrong with this outbreak investigation.  Just last year, we had nearly the same conversation about spinach,” Congressman Cardoza said. “You could describe our current food safety system as ‘outbreak roulette.’  A spin of the outbreak wheel could bankrupt your industry or sicken a loved one. This is unacceptable, and we must do more to improve the response of government and industry to foodborne illness outbreaks.”

 “The investigative procedure must be clear, all stakeholders must understand the process, and we must not divert scarce Federal resources away from true food safety programs,” Subcommittee Ranking Member Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) said. “Our food production, processing and distribution systems are extremely complex, and it is clear to me that a one-sized fits all trace-back system is most likely impossible to implement.”

A full transcript of the hearing will be posted on the Committee website at a later date.

Witness List

Panel I

·        The Honorable Diana DeGette, Member of Congress from the First Congressional District of Colorado

·        Honorable Adam Putnam, Member of Congress from the Twelfth Congressional District of Florida

Panel II

·        Dr. David W.K. Acheson, M.D., Associate Commissioner for Food Protection, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, Maryland

·        Dr. Lonnie J. King, Director, DVM, National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases (ZVED), Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia

Panel III

·        Mr. Anthony J. DiMare, Vice President, DiMare Homestead Inc., DiMare Ruskin Inc., and DiMare Johns Island Inc., Ruskin, Florida

·        Mr. Henry L. Giclas, Vice President, Strategic Planning, Science and Technology, Western Growers Association, Irvine, California

·         Mr. Brian Silberman, President, Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Delaware

·        Mr. Thomas E. Stenzel, President and CEO, United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, DC

·        Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Panel IV

·        Dr. James R. Gorny, Ph.D., Executive Director, Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center, University of California, Davis, California

·        Ms. Jean Halloran, Director, Food Policy Initiatives, Consumers Union, Yonkers, New York