At Markon, food safety has been of the utmost importance since our inception, but since the spinach outbreak of 2006 our efforts have been increased even more. As you know, I have taken an active role in communicating my thoughts about food safety and have worked to serve the industry with respect to this issue in a number of ways, including being a board member and former chairman of the Center for Produce Safety.
Despite the fact that meats and eggs cause more illnesses than fruits or vegetables, we in the produce industry are especially concerned about the safety of the products we sell. The Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, the California and Florida tomato industries and, most recently, the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board are among the organizations that have worked hard to apply the best science we have, create measurable metrics, and verify the process, to provide the safest foods possible.
During this year’s Center for Produce Safety’s (CPS) Third Annual Symposium, rather than opening the session by reviewing science and statistics collected since our last meeting (which are certainly very important), the day began with an interview of a young lady named Dana Dziadul. Dana is a 14-year-old who suffers from a debilitating illness known as Reactive Arthritis.
For years Dana’s parents did not know what was wrong with her, in fact, even after she was diagnosed, she did not know how or why she had the disease. Only when she was interviewed by an organization called Safe Tables Our Priority (now STOP Foodborne Illness) did her family discover that her problems all began when she was sickened by cantaloupe contaminated with Salmonella when she was three years old.
CPS wanted to talk with Dana and make her story, and stories like hers, more widely known. When we in the produce industry discuss food safety, it is often about business deals. We are worried about liability and meeting customer demands for a globally accepted audit or that we select this inspection firm over another one. But Dana’s story reminds us of the real reason we are all focused on food safety. She shows us that there are faces behind these illnesses. Dana’s story illustrates how the decisions and actions we make—or don’t make—can impact real people in a very real way. She is proof that we have a responsibility to the people who consume our products to provide the safest produce we know how to grow, pack, ship, distribute, and prepare. And her story is a reminder that first and foremost, food safety is an imperative, not as a business risk strategy, or a way to keep our names off the front page of USA Today; our imperative emanates from our responsibility to people like Dana.