The United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association have issued a joint statement urging the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to clarify “multiple inaccuracies” contained its Top 10 Riskiest Foods report published last week.
In its report, CSPI listed leafy greens as the top illness-causing product in the US, followed by eggs, tuna and oysters. Potatoes ranked fifth, behind cheese and ice cream, while tomatoes, sprouts and berries represented the eighth, ninth and 10th spots respectively.
“As you know,” stated the letter, written by United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel and PMA President and CEO Bryan Silbermann, “... the produce industry is committed to ensuring the fresh fruits and vegetables we produce provide consumers with a safe and healthy eating experience every bite, every time”.
The joint letter emphasized industry initiatives to increase food safety accountability, including the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, United and PMA’s participation in the non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education, and both associations’ call for mandatory regulation to help ensure the safety of the food supply.
By focusing your ‘Top Ten’ release solely on the food products listed, you are presenting a misleading picture to the American public,” continued the letter. “As you well know, food handling is often the cause of such outbreaks. And while you do provide some clarification in the full report, the reality is that most consumers and reporters will not go to the website for more complete information.”
Upon release of the list, CSPI Staff Attorney Sarah Klein commented that “consumers can only do so much to make sure they are not getting sick”.
Both associations took special exception to Ms Klein’s characterization of the consumer’s role in ensuring a safe food supply as small.
“That’s simply not accurate. Consumers and other food handlers play a huge role in preventing illnesses, and they do need more information on safe handling,” stated the letter.
Mr Stenzel and Mr Silbermann also expressed concern that the CSPI’s list could further discourage Americans from getting the healthy amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables they need.
“The lack of clarity and misleading way the information was presented could very well discourage consumers from eating healthy fruits and vegetables,” they warned in the letter. “That is unfortunate considering that obesity is at epidemic proportions and so few Americans consume the recommended amounts already.”