FDA Continues to Ban Mexican Green Onions

ROCKVILLE, MD - The Food and Drug Administration has extended a ban on importing green onions (scallions) from a number of Mexican growers because of possible foodborne health threats.

The FDA stated that the scallions have been prepared, packed or held in unsanitary conditions and consequently may have been exposed to Hepatitis A Virus, which it considers to be a poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health.

The agency cited two outbreaks of Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) in September 2003 in Tennessee and Georgia. It said subsequent investigations and epidemiological data implicated fresh green onions (scallions) from three firms in Mexico as the cause of the outbreaks. There were 77 cases reported in Tennessee, all of which were associated with a restaurant in Tennessee. In the Georgia outbreak, 25 of the more than 200 cases were associated with restaurants. FDA's investigations implicated Mexican green onions (scallions) from sources in Mexico.

"FDA believes that green onions (scallions) imported from Mexico appear to be adulterated under Section 801(a)(3) of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (Act) because they appear (1) to contain Hepatitis A Virus, an added poisonous or deleterious substance that may render food injurious to health within the meaning of section 402(a)(1) of the Act and (2) to have been prepared, packed, or held under unsanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health within the meaning of Section 402(a)(4) of the Act. In addition, the green onions (scallions) violate section 801(a)(1) of the Act in that they appear to have been manufactured, processed, or packed under unsanitary conditions," the agency said in its findings.

The following Mexican companies on the FDA's detention without physical examination list: Dos M Sales De Mexico; 2 M Sale De Mexico; Agricola La Laguna (aka Sun Fresh); Tecnoagro Intenrnacional; Tecno Agro Internacional; and Agro Industrias Vigor.

While the FDA reaffirmed its belief that the scallions were contaminated at the Mexican farms, the Mexican government doesn't agree.

"We are not sure that this problem originated in Mexico," Ernesto Rubio, a Mexican government official was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. "It is not so easy to have conclusive evidence because once you export, it goes through different hands and how many hands is not so easy to determine."


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