July 22, 2018

FDA: Salmonella Contamination At Chamberlain Farms Widespread

Salmonella contamination is widespread at Chamberlain Farms, according to a December warning letter issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Owensville, Ind. farm was the producer of cantaloupe linked to a 24-state Salmonella outbreak in 2102 that sickened 261 and killed three people.

In the letter, addressed to Tim Chamberlain, president of the farm, the FDA said environmental swabs taken from various growing locations yielded multiple isolates of Salmonella, including those that were a genetic match to the outbreak strain.  “FDA does not expect melons to be grown in a Salmonella free environment; however these findings suggest a source of contamination that is wide-spread and not consistent with background contamination.”

To address the problem in the fields, the agency made nine recommendations from its industry guidance: Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Melons. And two more recommendations about “melon cooling.”

The FDA also reiterated other problems discovered at the farm during a post-outbreak inspection that may have contributed to Salmonella growth. Those problems include: Accumulated organic material on multiple locations of the cantaloupe conveyer; debris including trash, wood, food pieces, standing water, mud, and dirt beneath the conveyer belt in the cantaloupe packinghouse; standing water, apparently containing algae, on the floor of the packinghouse; bird excrement in the rafters above food contact surfaces and directly on the processing line itself; roof runoff water flowing into brush washer and conveyor belt; materials  such as carpet that could not be effectively cleaned or sanitized; and uncapped well heads.

The agency noted that some of the problems were corrected during the inspection, but that the farm must provide documentation of long-term solutions to the problems within working days of the letter dated December 14, 2012.

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