(Oct. 13) SALINAS, Calif. — Mexico scaled back its ban on all U.S. lettuce to only product grown in California. Produce industry officials decried the original ban as an overreaction in the wake of a lone company recalling green-leaf lettuce.

“The ban was outrageous,” said Tom Stenzel, president of Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, referring to the Oct. 10 decision by the Mexican Ministry of Health, which was amended a day later.

The Nunes Co., Salinas, announced a recall of about 8,500 cartons of green-leaf lettuce on Oct. 9, citing concerns over possible E. coli contamination in irrigation water. No lettuce was found to have contained the bacteria.

“It was political motivation on the part of whoever in the Mexican government approved that decision,” Stenzel said on Oct 10. “To have a reaction like this from the Mexican Ministry of Health was absurd.”

Stenzel said the long-term economic damages are far worse than dollars and cents.

“It’s the implication that there was anything for Mexican consumers to worry about,” he said. “The damage to their credibility is huge.”

An Oct. 11 joint press release from Mexico’s health and agriculture ministries said that possible sanitary risk is exclusively in lettuce produced in the Salinas Valley.

The release said, “Subsequent actions, such as increasing precautionary measures, will be taken according to the results of the investigations developed by the authorities of both countries.”

Amy Philpott, vice president of marketing and industry relations for United Fresh, said the ban is based on faulty logic.

“Mexico’s actions are completely unjustified, and the recent revised ban on lettuce from only California is as equally outrageous as the initial ban,” Philpott said.

Mexico is “taking advantage of the wounded,” said Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., referring to an industry that’s dealing with a September E. coli outbreak tied to Salinas Valley spinach.