SACRAMENTO-In testimony this morning at a federal hearing in Oxnard, California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary William (Bill) J. Lyons, Jr. asked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to spend more time analyzing last year’s Spanish clementine pest detection scare before reopening U.S. markets to the imported fruit.
Live Mediterranean fruit fly larvae were discovered last winter in Spanish clementines intended for sale in San Diego, Riverside and Santa Clara counties, as well as in the states of Maryland, North Carolina and Louisiana. The USDA banned further imports at the time and is now proposing a new rule that would reopen U.S. markets to Spanish clementines.
Due to a Mediterranean fruit fly infestation in Spain, pest prevention protocol requires that the fruit, which resembles a tangerine, must be cold treated as a requirement for entry into the U.S. For a reason that has yet to be explained, cold treatment failed last winter.
“We are disappointed and concerned that this new rule has been published when USDA hasn’t identified where the previous program failed,” said Secretary Lyons. “The proposed change to the cold treatment protocol for Mediterranean fruit fly is based only on a review of the scientific literature…not on how the cold treatment failed in this instance.”
The Mediterranean fruit fly, or Medfly, threatens more than 250 types of fruits and vegetables grown in California. If the pest was to become permanently established here, it could cause billions of dollars worth of damage.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814