FDA stops Mexican papayas at the border

Using some of the authority granted to them in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has empowered inspectors at the border to stop shipments of papayas from Mexico. This is following more than 100 instances of salmonella poisoning connected to contaminated imports. Importers are required to demonstrate that their shipments are safe by providing validated laboratory testing.

Defective or dangerous food and drugs are an increasing concern in international imports. For years, the FDA has been hampered by an antiquated system that was built when the vast majority of the products used in the United State were produced domestically. The dramatic rise in imported goods has left the FDA scrambling to protect Americans from substandard and sometimes dangerous products. The contaminated papayas are the latest in a series of imports that have generated headlines.

Under the old model the FDA would wait for the product to harm its consumers. It would then initiate a recall of the offending product. The new rules allow the FDA to act preemptively to stop harmful goods from ever reaching our grocery stores or retail shelves. As anyone who has ever suffered from salmonella poisoning can attest, this method is preferable.

The contaminated papayas have caused illnesses in 23 states across the U.S. The majority of the papayas sold in the United States come from Mexico. As the salmonella strain has been identified in shipments from all over Mexico, no shipment coming from that country can be considered safe without laboratory testing. Consumers would be wise to avoid eating papayas, or at least to choose papayas that originated somewhere other than Mexico.

Source: Treehugger, A Discovery Company, “Tainted Mexican Papayas Prompt FDA Border Alert,” by Sara Novak, 9 October 2011.