April 26, 2018

FDA To Cantaloupe Growers: Prepare To Be Inspected

After two major food poisoning outbreaks in two years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is urging the cantaloupe growers to review their practices and to make sure they are doing all they can to prevent dangerous pathogens form contaminating their melons. In a letter to growers, the agency is also telling growers it will be conducting inspections of some operations to make sure these efforts have been made.

Combined, the cantaloupe Listeria outbreak of 2011 and the cantaloupe Salmonella outbreak of 2012 sickened more than 400 people. Thirty six people died.  In both outbreaks, investigators discovered unsanitary conditions in the packinghouses.

“Due to our observations at cantaloupe packinghouses, we urge the cantaloupe industry to review its current operations in the context of our guidance titled “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fruits and Vegetables” and our draft guidance titled “Guidance for Industry: Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Melons,” which together recommend good agricultural practices (GAPs) and current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) that growers, harvesters, sorters, packers, processors, and shippers can undertake to address common risk factors in their operations,” the agency’s letter to growers states. “We further encourage the industry to seek other available information, beyond that listed here, pertaining to pathogen reduction or elimination on fresh produce, including state and local government requirements or guidance and industry-led efforts to address food safety.”

The agency said it is aware that many growers and some professional associations have already taken steps to address food safety concerns. And that the letter is meant to “highlight the critical importance of safe and sanitary production and handling of cantaloupe.”

Inspections of packinghouses will be a way for the agency to assess practices to identify insanitary conditions that may affect the safety of cantaloupe destined for distribution to consumers. In California, planting has been underway for several weeks.

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