44 JULY 2018 WINSIGHT GROCERY BUSINESS
Fellow task force committee member and PMA Chief
PMA also acts as a communications vehicle for its members, distilling scientific information and helping them to
understand it. In this case, with the root cause still unsolved,
Whitaker may have more questions than answers.
“As this goes on, history would say that it’s less likely
we’ll pinpoint the cause,” he says. “Harvest to shelf life
on romaine is over in less than three weeks. By the time
we see the first reports of illness, the field is already gone.
Produce is not like a can of soup. There’s a lot of buying
and selling, and a lot of parties to trace the product to.”
“Two of the four pillars of FSMA didn’t work. The out-
break was not prevented and the response wasn’t quick,”
says Hilary Thesmar, FMI’s chief food and product safety
officer and senior VP. “Here we are weeks in and no closer
to knowing the cause, which is essential to knowing how
to prevent it again.”
During the outbreak and in its aftermath, FMI has been
in frequent contact with its retailer members to brain-
storm a path forward.
“Retailers are frustrated,” Thesmar says. “They want
much closer communication with the FDA and CDC, with
access to real-time information when a product is pulled,
to protect the health of their customers. They don’t want
to hear it on the news or Twitter. Retailers don’t want to
High-Risk Foods When WGB asked the FDA what it had learned from this latest outbreak in terms of communicating with retailers, and how this knowledge might influence
future communications surrounding outbreaks and/or
recalls, an FDA spokesperson relayed the complexities of
traceability—but not how these efforts might be improved.
The outbreak has renewed the
conversation in our industry
of having better traceability.”
—Jennifer McEntire, United Fresh Produce Association
Task Force Launches
On May 29, Arizona and California Leafy Greens
Marketing Agreements, PMA, United Fresh, Western
Growers and other produce industry stakeholders
announced the formation of a Leafy Greens Food Safety
Designed to assess and address issues associated
with recent foodborne-illness outbreaks attributed to the
consumption of leafy greens, as well as prevent future
outbreaks, the task force seeks to sharpen food safety
systems through the entire supply chain.
The supply chain for leafy greens is extensive.
According to the task force, California and Arizona
produce more than 50 billion servings of leafy greens
every year for American consumers.
Both the FDA and CDC will be involved on a
collaborative basis. Also, a steering committee will provide
oversight and momentum.