The FDA announced a partial ban Monday on some of the fresh cilantro of Mexican origin over health concerns after investigators found traces of human feces and toilet paper in the fields where the herb is grown.
Yet, farm worker rights advocacy groups claim that American farm workers also have the habit of relieving themselves in the open field.
The current ban only affects cilantro imports from Puebla, a Mexican state with a record of stomach disease exported in the U.S. along with its products in the last couple of years. The FDA said that the ban would be upheld from April through the end of the summer unless producers can prove that their products are safe.
Besides human feces and toilet paper remains in the growing fields, FDA investigators also found extremely dirty toilets and a lack of properly equipped washing facilities with no soap and running water at several cilantro farms in Puebla. Moreover, the surfaces where the herb was processed were prone to bacterial contamination from nearby sewage systems, while the crates used to transport the plant were “visibly dirty and not washed.”
Mexican health authorities also got involved in the investigation and scrutinized 11 farms. Eight of them had sanitation problems including lack of toilets for workers or running water.
Farm Workers Association of Florida’s spokesperson Evelyn Freeman argues that defecating in the growing fields happens in the rural areas in the U.S., as well. In a phone interview, Ms. Freeman recalled that she too as a child had to go in the open field when there was no toilet around.
“I minister to people who are out there and every day I hear from people who have nowhere to use but the field,”
Ms. Freeman added.
The Farm Workers Association of Florida (FWAF) is an organization that fights for better working conditions, wages, benefits, and field sanitation for more than 6,000 farm workers and their families.
Another FWAF spokesperson Jeannie Economos said that in the U.S. the situation is a little cleaner, but the problem is present here as well. She noted that although there are standards that require a toilet to be located within a quarter of mile from the growing fields, there are still some exceptions.
Ms. Economos explained that she talked to workers and several of them reported that they either lack restrooms or the toilets are so dirty that they have no other option than to go in the woods or fields.
Image Source: K Fox14
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