Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tomato growers lose lawsuit

Florida tomato growers who lost hundreds of millions of dollars over a federal government food-safety warning have lost their lawsuit to recover their losses.

Their lawyer says he will file an appeal.

Judge Lynn J. Bush wrote decided that “advisory pronouncements, even those with significant financial impact on the marketplace, are not enough to effect a taking of property under the Fifth Amendment.”

In a 13-page decision quietly issued Thursday, Bush concluded that “although a wide range of government actions may give rise to regulatory takings,” these actions do not extend to “press releases and consumer advisories, by themselves.”

The Food and Drug Administration, dealing with hundreds of people sickened with salmonella poisoning in 2008, issued warnings on June 3 and June 7 linking the outbreak to certain types of tomatoes.

The FDA also held a media briefing on June 13, and said the “vast majority” of salmonella-tainted tomatoes were “very likely” from New Mexico and Florida.

Four days later they confirmed that the outbreak was actually linked to imported serrano and jalapeno peppers, so the FDA lifted its warning against tomatoes.

In the meantime, though, “all or almost all of the value of plaintiffs’ perishable tomatoes was destroyed by the collapse in the market for tomatoes triggered by the FDA’s warnings,” Bush wrote.

The price of Georgia tomatoes in 2008 dropped to less than $4 per box from the usual $18 to $19, while some Florida growers were reportedly reduced to selling their crop for less than $1 per box.