U.S.: Listeria apple media claims in Asia "outlandish", says Powers

January 27 , 2015

The Northwest Horticultural Council has said a wealth of inaccurate information circulating around Asia-Pacific countries relating to the recall of some listeria-contaminated U.S. apples has led to widespread market disruption. shutterstock_1276214001.3

California-based Bidart Brothers voluntarily recalled its Granny Smith and Gala apples on Jan. 6 after environmental tests revealed contamination at the company’s apple-packing facility in Bakersfield.

After the recall was announced, the Malaysian press raised concerns over whether consumers could have been affected, and the country’s Ministry of Health began a “hold, test, release” on the importation of Gala and Granny Smith Apples from Bidart.

However, Northwest Horticultural Council executive vice president Mark Powers told www.freshfruitportal.com incorrect reports had been generated in Malaysia and other Asia-Pacific countries, leading many to believe the recall affected more apples than it did.

Following concerns in Malaysia, the Philippine and Vietnamese governments were reported by local news agencies as having recalled imported Gala and Granny Smith apples from the U.S.

“There’s a lot of market disruption at this point, depending on the market of concern,” Powers said.

“It appears to be the result of some inaccurate initial press reports out of Malaysia that have been transmitted around the Asia-Pacific markets, and now we’re doing our best through the U.S. government to get accurate information out so that people can know the initial recall was a very limited amount of apples from a company called Bidart, and only the Granny Smith and Gala varieties.

“It doesn’t involve Washington State apples at all, but right now it’s a very fluid situation. Some countries appear to be taking a reasonable approach and targeting just those shipments that came from California.”

He added it was his understanding that Bidart’s last shipment was back in December, and might not even have been sent to international destinations.

“There’s so much inaccurate information being generated right now by different countries, by social media, that it’s impossible to categorize,” Powers said.

“All I know is we’re doing what we can to assure customers and governments that Washington State apples were not involved in the recall and that they can continue to be consumed with confidence by the consumers around the world.”

Powers also said the market problems now being experienced by some U.S. exporters varied greatly depending on the specific country.

“Some countries aren’t doing anything; they receive Bidart apples, they’ve acted responsibly and are apparently focused on Bidart apples, in which case there’s isn’t any impact on Washington State,” he said.

“In other instances it appears that the country is doing the right thing but you’ve got social media and other media generating irresponsible and just outlandish claims that some consumers appear to be reacting to.

“So it’s a very difficult situation that is evolving and we’re trying to get ahead of it as best we can, working with the [Washington State] Apple Commission and working with the U.S. government to get facts out to people.”

Related story: U.S. apple listeria hysteria spreads in South East Asia

Photo: www.shutterstock.com




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