FDA To Inspect U.S. Cantaloupe Packinghouses in 2013

March 6, 2013, Dana Johnson, Brewery and Winery Specialist
Brewery and Winery Specialist

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Feb. 25, 2013, that it will begin conducting random inspections of U.S. cantaloupe packinghouses during the 2013 growing season. The FDA will be looking for unsanitary conditions that may contribute to the growth of Listeria.

Why is the FDA targeting Listeria on cantaloupe?  in the summer of 2011, Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Colorado was determined to be responsible for the deaths of over 30 people. The FDA found that Jensen Farms’ cleaning and sanitizing practices were insufficient to remove Listeria from the cantaloupe.

Flash forward to 2013 and according to its letter, the FDA is seeking “ … in part, to assess the current practices by this segment of the produce industry and to identify insanitary conditions that may affect the safety of cantaloupe destined for distribution to consumers. In the event of adverse findings, we will take action as needed to protect the public health.”

The FDA is not just looking at Listeria on cantaloupe. Just this week, the FDA issued its report on the 2012 Salmonella outbreak at Chamberlain Farms in Indiana, which sickened 261, including three deaths, in 24 states. The FDA found that the initial contamination, which began in the field, was spread by packinghouse operations and practices.

Please visit the following link to view the FDA’s letter:

http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/OfficeofFoods/CFSAN/CFSANFOIAElectronicReadingRoom/ucm341029.htm

As I mentioned in my September 2012 blog, the cantaloupe industry is taking great strides to improve food safety. In fact, the FDA complimented them in its Feb. 25 letter.  We hope this year will be free from any major cantaloupe recalls. We shall see!

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