'It's not like CSI'; Farm leader urges patience in E. coli investigation
» December 14, 2006 «
As health investigators work to trace the source of E. coli bacteria that caused illnesses at Taco Bell restaurants in Eastern states, California family farmers and ranchers say their main concern remains the health of the consumers who depend on them for safe, affordable food.
"Farmers know their chief responsibility is to provide safe food to consumers," California Farm Bureau President Doug Mosebar said. "Farmers accept that responsibility and take it very seriously. It's a responsibility farmers share with processors, marketers, transportation companies, restaurants, retailers ... anyone who works to bring crops from the farm to the table."
In the case of the Taco Bell E. coli illnesses, Mosebar noted, investigators have reached no definitive conclusion on the cause.
"We worry that certain crops or foods will be judged guilty until proven innocent," he said.
He urged everyone involved to cooperate with health officials and with each other, to provide facts to work from as soon as possible. And, Mosebar said, it's up to the health agencies to provide clear information that can lead to positive changes that benefit food safety.
"That may take time," he said. "Everyone has to remember that this investigation won't be like an episode of 'CSI,' where there's a tidy answer in 57 minutes. We must allow the scientists to do their work so we can follow the science where it leads."
At a time when nutritionists encourage Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables, Mosebar said, it's important to enhance the health and safety reputation of fresh produce.
"Farmers have already assumed this responsibility, by working on best management practices for the growing and harvesting of lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens. We believe practices will also be developed for processors and everyone who handles leafy greens," he said.
Mosebar stressed that everyone from the farm to the processing plant to the restaurant or retailer strives for perfection, every day.
"This may not be rocket science, but in a sense it is rocket science. There are many steps in the process from farm to table and every step of that process must be addressed carefully and correctly," he said. "Our success will not be measured in sales figures or dollar terms. Our success will be measured in the health and well-being of the people who depend on us for safe, reliable, affordable food."
The California Farm Bureau Federation, the state's largest farm organization, works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 92,000 members.
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