After Recalls, Food Tends to Bounce Back

Last Updated Aug 27, 2008 6:02 PM EDT

In the short term, the recent salmonella outbreak was bad for the tomato business. Real bad.

tomatoesBut in the long run, things should even out. That's according to the people interviewed by Stephanie Bloyd of Food Business News who examined the outbreak in the context of earlier food recalls.

"Looking back to what has happened with other commodities recalls, the impact should be short term," said Sean Fox, professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University. "My best guess is that long term, the industry should not see a significant loss."

But the industry is still reeling from the short-term losses, which were more than significant. The tomato industry lost about $100 million, even though tomatoes never had been contaminated â€" the Food and Drug Administration said they were before saying "whoops, never mind."

A study by the Produce Marketing Association conducted in June, soon after the FDA' s warning against eating certain types of tomatoes indicated that 88 percent of survey respondents said they were regular eaters of tomatoes, and two-thirds of them had at that point stopped eating all types of tomatoes. The fear lasted for months, even after the FDA determined (this time, apparently accurately) that peppers grown in Mexico were to blame.

The 2006 spinach scare, Fox said, was bad for the spinach business. But sales were pretty much back in line by the following year.

People seem to realize, perhaps partly intuitively, that after a recall, culprit foods are more likely to be more carefully scrutinized â€" perhaps moreso than other foods. At least for a while.

  • Dan Mitchell

    Dan Mitchell has spent the past 20 years writing and editing for newspapers, magazines, and Web publications. Currently, he writes the What's Online column for the Saturday business section of the New York Times. He has also written for the Chicago Tribune, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, National Public Radio, Business 2.0, and Wired.

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