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FDA Institutes Partial Ban on Cilantro from Mexico

Statement of CSPI Senior Food Safety Attorney David Plunkett

July 27, 2015

The Food and Drug Administration has an enormous task when it comes to assuring the safety of food imported from Mexico and elsewhere. The discovery of used toilet paper and human feces in fields of cilantro in the Mexican state of Puebla is plainly unacceptable, but at least it is good news that FDA has identified the problem and can now turn away potentially tainted cilantro at the border.

The real challenge, though, is for FDA and its counterparts around the world to stop food from being contaminated, and consumers from becoming ill, in the first place. In this particular instance, it means ensuring that farmworkers have the kind of adequate toilet, handwashing, and sanitation facilities that will prevent the appalling conditions FDA found in Puebla.

Produce safety standards that will require foreign farms to meet our safety standards and make importers responsible for assuring they do are due out this fall. That will help, but Congress also must give FDA the resources it needs to do the inspections that are necessary to stop allowing food grown in disgusting conditions like those found in Mexico from making its way onto American dinner plates.