In response to the E.Coli outbreak warning issued by Canada and the United States, Luis Benavides, director in charge of the Panamanian Food Safety Authority (AUPSA), indicated that at the moment there is not a considerable alarm for the country, since this type of alerts are issued just to avoid and take precautions, not to indicate that the disease already exists.
"Bacteria were detected in romaine lettuces imported from the United States and issued to national and local importers," Benavides said, adding that as a preventive measure "we made an inventory with each company that imported and distributed in the capital and the interior; in case of presence of the virus, it will be necessary to eliminate all the cargo".
When in doubt about local food prepared, he clarified that "in terms of restaurants and establishments of prepared food, we will make a statement that will be public and likewise we will assist every place we can to verify that they withdrew the product and that they can do the relevant commercial claim".
Because it is a time close to Christmas, the demand for food increases considerably and also "the work flow increases, but the controls with pesticides, care and every detail will be greater, with international alerts (mainly from the US and EU)".
Despite international measures and existing pacts between Panama and the United States regarding food control, Benavides clarified that "our control laws are equivalent to those of the US, but we have additional measures."
With the fear of new cases or even different viruses, the director of the AUPSA noted that "in meat and dairy products, control is greater and when entering Panama, an additional and exhaustive evaluation is done, such as the small details about the freezing of the products and their importation, to avoid thawing and selling them as fresh."
To talk directly about the Christmas holidays and the greater flow of imports within the same date, Benavides clarified that "the most consumed are fruits, hams, turkeys and those that increase by date, vegetables such as potatoes, onions and their own lettuce. The outbreak of Salmonella in the turkey, for example, did exist, but the brand never entered Panama and we could verify that, as we will do with this case in romaine lettuce."