Mexican mango sector attacks 'unfounded rumors'
Mexican mango exporters have expressed concern over 'unfounded rumours' linking Mexico-sourced products with the ongoing salmonella outbreak in the U.S. and Canada, although they say it is too soon to estimate how recent events have affected the sector.
The country's top mango associations have promised to work with the U.S. and Mexican food safety authorities and, should the origin of the current deadly strain of the bacteria be proven to be within the country, have pledged to take appropriate action.
The comments come after 105 people in the U.S. and 80 in Canada were reported to have been affected by salmonella poisoning, which the authorities have linked to Daniella-branded mangoes, originating from northern Mexico.
Mango exporters' association EMEX president Jorge Armando Celis Moreno, told www.freshfruitportal.com that although the outbreak had been linked with northern Sinaloa state, there was as yet no demonstrable evidence of a problem in the region.
"It has been linked with the north of Sinaloa region, which is the final stage in Mexico’s mango export calendar, in a zone declared free of fruit fly by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), but which is not part of our association," he said.
"However, according to information from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), published on the Senasica (Mexico’s food safety authority) website, there hasn’t been a single (official) report that says there is a problem with contamination connected with Mexican mangoes."
Celis Moreno said there was now a great deal of "anxiety" in the sector over "unfounded claims" that the hot water treatment used by many Mexican mango growers was the source of the contamination.
"We are concerned as an industry by the rumors we have been hearing - if there was already proof (of the link), we would have found a way to correct it and would have announced that this was the case," he said.
Celis Moreno, who estimated that 57% of a 60,000 metric ton (MT) mango crop had already been exported, said it was still "too early" to give a precise evaluation of the impact of the claims on the Mexican mango sector.
For its part, Mexico’s national mango committee (Conaspromango) said it was working with the Mexican and U.S. agriculture departments to establish the origin of the outbreak.
However, the group's Oscar Sumano said he was unable to confirm at this time the source of the contamination, which he said was the subject of "analysis and verification to provide greater information".
"Senasica has been carrying out an inspection over the last couple of days of the packer that is allegedly involved – Agrícola Daniella – which is located in the northern part of Sinaloa," Sumano said.
"However, we still don’t have results and to draw conclusions at this moment would not be appropriate."
Sumano said that Conaspromango had been in touch with Mexican food safety authorities since news of the problem became known and revealed the committee had asked for official support to implement an emergency action plan.
Sumano claimed the committee had been at the forefront of reducing the risks of contamination over recent years through seminars and conferences, although he conceded Mexican agriculture was "still undergoing a process of change", especially in the wake of the U.S.'s new food safety modernisation laws.
"Two chains in the U.S. have voluntarily withdrawn products sold specifically under the (Daniella) brand, not all Mexican mangoes.
"What we have to emphasis is that we cannot generalize – the salmonella contamination, according to the authorities here in Mexico, has only been linked with one packer, but nothing has yet been proven and it is too early to become alarmed.
"However, despite this, we are taking definitive action to prevent any problems taking place."
The comments from Conaspromango and EMEX follow the release of a statement by Senasica, claiming there was "as yet insufficient evidence to determine the source of the contamination or the origin of the salmonella strain found in the U.S. and Canada".
California-based wholesaler Splendid Products, which distributes Daniella mangoes in the U.S., also issued a statement confirming it had voluntarily recalled all fruit sold under the brand in the country between Jul. 12 and Aug. 29.
"Although an investigation is still ongoing, out of an abundance of caution Splendid Products is recalling Daniella mangoes in the U.S. The recall is being conducted in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the California Department of Public Health," the company said in a statement.
Photo: Canadian Food Inspection Agency