Sunday, May 26, 2024

Supply chain responds swiftly to salmonella contamination

The recall of pre-packaged salad brands has been thorough, swift and effective according to the Produce Marketing Association and the Fresh Produce Safety Centre.

According to PMA CEO and chairman of the Fresh Produce Safety Centre (FPSC) Michael Worthington, even though we do not yet know the cause of the outbreak, the industry is working diligently at a number of different levels.

“The retailers are reviewing all their packaged salad suppliers’ processes, systems and testing regimes: the processors themselves are looking at every part of their systems; PMA is working with all the salad processors on ensuring consumers are getting the right information, and FPSC is working with all the relevant technical people to look at every aspect,” he said.

“We are confident the situation is contained, but no stone is being left unturned to ensure this remains the case.”

PMA-ANZ Technology Manager Richard Bennett says that consumers can be confident that ready-to-eat salads on retail shelves are safe and healthy. He added that Australians have been consuming bagged salads for more than 20 years and now eat their way through more than 205 million bags a year.

“That’s an impressive total, and it has an impressive food safety record, but the salmonella outbreak last week has put all growers on notice that they cannot be complacent about food safety,” he said.

While the number of cases has continued to grow to more than 120, mostly in Victoria, the rate of growth has actually diminished.

“This is a good sign,” Mr Bennett said. “It means that the recall has been effective and most consumers have discarded remaining product from their refrigerators.”

Vegetable grower body AUSVEG is urging consumers to continue buying the fresh and packaged vegetable products available throughout Australia.

“This recent recall is not indicative of a systematic food safety issue in the vegetable industry – it is limited to one supplier, and all affected product has been taken off the shelves,” AUSVEG National Manager – Scientific Affairs Dr Jessica Lye said.

“Food safety incidences in the Australian vegetable industry are exceedingly rare, and consumers can be confident in buying the fresh and packaged vegetable products that are available.”

The producer of the packaged lettuce lines recalled last week, Victorian-based Tripod Farmers, continues to work with both the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services as well as Food Standards Australia New Zealand throughout the ongoing investigation into the source of the salmonella contamination.

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