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Letter From The Editor: Old Mexico

Successful completion of junior high in a town near Denver, Colorado came with one reward during the 1950s and 1960s. You got to go to Mexico.

All your camping gear was stuffed into the back of a yellow school bus and you would be packed into the front with all your lucky classmates, adult chaperones and the bus driver.

With the windows down and the music up, the yellow school bus would head due south for 600 miles and enter Mexico at Juárez and then spend the next ten days traveling and camping all over northern Mexico.

These school bus trips to Mexico ended long ago purely for logistical reasons, like classes getting too large and the need to keep school buses close to home to support spring sports and the like. As a participant who is now an elected official told me, there never was any problem with the idyllic camping tours of Old Mexico.

The two Mexican states immediately south of the U.S, border in the Southwest are Chihuahua and Sonora. I’d be surprised if the U.S. State Department had anything to say 50 years ago at the time of the yellow school bus tours, but it sure does now.

Here’s what the Department says about Chihuahua:

“You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Chihuahua. The situation in the state of Chihuahua, specifically Ciudad Juarez, is of special concern. Ciudad Juarez has one of the highest murder rates in Mexico.”

And about Sonora, the Mexican state further to the west, the U.S. Dept. of State says:

“Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades, and can be extremely dangerous for travelers.”

Americans are advised to “defer non-essential travel” to the state, limit driving in the state and by all means to avoid driving at night.

The state of Chihuahua saw more than 5,000 murders during 2010 and 2011, including three murders of persons associated with the U.S. Consulate General.

The fact is that if you read through the current Travel Warnings for Mexican states, you will find that with the exception of Mexico’s mostly coastal tourist areas and Mexico City, the U.S. State Department’s advice is not to go south of the border.

The reality is that large areas immediately south of the U.S. border are not under the control of the Mexican government. Instead, they are run by what the U.S. Dept. of States calls “transnational criminal organizations” (TCOs).

This means, of course, drug trafficking crime groups, who are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way. This does not mean that it is not possible for 150,000 Americans to cross into Mexico per day and almost stay out of the way of the drug trafficking war. This includes thousands of U.S. expats retired in Mexico and students enrolled in college there.

Which brings us to the Mexican mango mess.

Is it just me, or does it seem likely that the yellow school buses from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also stopped going south of the border?

It’s been about ten days since either FDA or CDC has provided any new information about a peaking outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup apparently associated with Mexican-grown mangoes. It’s also been about ten days since Mexico’s National Service of Health, Food Safety, and Quality (SENASICA) said there was not enough evidence to determine to source of the contamination for the S. Braenderup outbreak in the U.S. and Canada.

Ten days is a long time for no updates on a Salmonella outbreak involving 105 people in 16 states and another 21 in Canada.

We’re also about ten days into the recall by Burlingame, CA-based Splendid Products, the produce distributor of Daniella mangoes. Food Safety News reported then the source of the Daniella mangoes was Agricola Daniella near Ahome in he Sinoala region of Mexico.

Let me translate that. Ahome is a dusty town of 10,840 located about 475 miles south (and a little east) of Nogales, AZ. Sinoala is the state bordering the Gulf of California and its capital, Culiacan, is one of the major murder centers of this troubled country.

Nothing really meaningful has been learned about Agricola Daniella. Ordinarily by this time we know all about them. Just ask the Jensen brothers in Colorado or the Chamberlains in southwestern Indiana. They had the misfortune of being the cantaloupe growers responsible for the past two outbreaks involving that crop.

Is Agricola Daniella a corporation, partnership or single grower? We don’t know. Has FDA inspected the growing area, processing facilities, fields or transport? We don’t know.

And its been about ten days. In that time, a bunch of kids used to tour all of northern Mexico on a yellow school bus.

© Food Safety News
  • Ben Mark

    Here is some more news but not from FDA. How can it be happen that the mangos arrive in a US facility from a mango board of directors member without a traceable lot code? Only a GS1 sticker to ring up cash registers? Are the retailers paying for these labels as companies using it without questioning of the meaning and any advantages for themselves? http://mangoworldmagazine.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-back-story-behind-daniella-mango.html#!/2012/09/the-back-story-behind-daniella-mango.html
    No wonder the produce industry is fighting real traceability when you see what’s going on behind the scenes. I’m surprised the mangos from Mexico are off the shelves and overnight the same looking mangos are back on the shelves now with a Country of Origin from Brazil. Labels can be made fast! How many FDA inspectors are working in towns like Nogales AZ? Or do they have the same kissy-kissy-cheeky-cheeky attitude as the inspectors in California?