Western Growers asks FDA commissioner to lift tomato consumption advisory

Western Growers’ President and CEO Tom Nassif sent a letter on July 16 to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach urging him to make a strong public announcement that all tomatoes grown in the United States, regardless of variety, are safe to eat.

“Although tomatoes in California were never associated with this outbreak our growers are suffering,” wrote Nassif in the letter. “Some have left fruit to rot on the vine. Others have disced their tomatoes into the ground. The market is suppressed and demand is low. Exporters are having great difficulties selling to overseas markets.”

Nassif additionally requested that Dr. von Eschenbach and the FDA coordinate and work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other agencies to ensure that confidence in U.S.-grown tomatoes in overseas markets is restored.

“It is time for the Food and Drug Administration to make a public statement giving consumers the ‘all clear’ announcement that tomatoes produced in the U.S. are safe to eat,” wrote Nassif. “The urgency of the matter and increasing damages to the industry compel immediate action. The tomatoes currently being harvested and shipped are from states your agency identifies as not being associated with this outbreak.”

Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose members from Arizona and California grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in California and 75 percent of those commodities in Arizona. This totals about half of the nation’s fresh produce.

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