Retailers are concerned about food safety and appreciate that all California cantaloupe shippers are following the same program, he added.
Growers in other states, including Colorado, Indiana and Georgia also are looking at the program, which evaluates “critical risk points” from the time ground is chosen for planting until the melons are loaded onto a truck, he said.
Besides the mandatory California program, many growers also must comply with separate third-party audits required by supermarket chains, Gilstrap said.
“They definitely want the consumer to know that they’re doing everything possible (to ensure food safety), and the product is being inspected,” he said.
“If (consumers) see a problem with a cantaloupe from somewhere else, there is no reason to think that same problem is going to exist with a California cantaloupe,” he said.
Patrichio said California’s climate also plays an important role in helping ensure that cantaloupes grown in the state are safe.
“The hot, dry desert conditions under which we grow makes the presence (of pathogens) much less and contamination less likely,” he said. “It’s possible, but not highly probable.”
As the program begins its second season, the certification process is “going very well,” Gilstrap said. “The auditors are doing a great job.”
The food safety plan is based on the Food and Drug Administration’s guidance for cantaloupe, which has been tweaked with input from Western Growers, University of California extension and other sources to fit California’s growing conditions.