FDA finds listeria at Burch Farms packing facility - The Packer

FDA finds listeria at Burch Farms packing facility

08/14/2012 02:10:00 PM
Coral Beach

Listeria contamination is confirmed at the Burch Farms melon packing facility in Faison, N.C., according to the Food and Drug Administration.

In an update posted on its website late Aug. 13, FDA officials said the listeria finding spurred Burch to expand its recall to include all cantaloupe and honeydew melons shipped this season. No illnesses have been reported in relation to the recalled melons.

“This recall expansion is based on the FDA’s finding of Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) on a honeydew melon grown and packed by Burch Farms. The recall expansion is also a result of the agency’s finding of L. mono in the environment of the firm’s packing facility,” according to the notice.

Burch Farms melon boxesAn unknown number of honeydew melons from Burch Farms, Faison, N.C., are now included in the grower's recall of more than 188,900 cantaloupes because of possible listeria contamination. The honeydews do not have any identifying stickers or marks and were shipped in these generic melon cartons.Burch Equipment LLC, doing business as Burch Farms, originally recalled about 5,200 cantaloupes July 28 after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Microbiological Data Program found listeria on one melon at retail during a random sampling.

The grower expanded the recall to include 188,900 cantaloupes Aug. 3 and corrected the variety from athena to caribbean golds. That expansion came after the FDA revealed it had found “unsanitary conditions” at the Burch packing shed.

Owner Jimmy Burch Sr. did not respond immediately to calls for comment on Aug. 14.

On Aug. 13, Burch told The Packer that FDA inspectors had apparently completed their work at his farm and packing facility, but had not provided him with results of samples taken there. He had previously said he uses the sanitizer SaniDate in his packing facility’s water.

Burch said he planted only about 10 acres of honeydews for this season. The entire crop went to wholesalers. He said his farm has not had food safety issues in the past.

“We shipped 3,000 loads of produce last year with no problems,” Burch said.

According to Burch and the FDA, the recalled honeydews do not have any identifying stickers. They were packed in cartons labeled “melons.”

In its latest recall notice the company reminded consumers that the listeria incubation period “can be one to three weeks, but may be in the range of three to 70 days.”

Complete distribution details on the melons are not available, according to the FDA.

The Burch cantaloupes and honeydew melons were sold to distributors between June 23 and July 27, in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia, the Aug. 10 recall states.

“The melons may have further been distributed to retail stores, restaurants and food service facilities in other states,” according to the recall.

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Texas  |  August, 15, 2012 at 11:05 AM

Who has done the audits at this facility? How do you place any produse in a box that just says melons?? This is August, what justifies a recall in August for product sold or shipped in June with a shelf life of 10-14 days.

Coral Beach    
August, 16, 2012 at 09:28 AM

Gregg, Here is the food safety and traceability information from the Burch Farms website (http://.burchfarmsnc.com): "Burch Farms prides ourselves on superior quality and service to keep our customers orders filled. "We are audited through Primus Labs, a third party company that is widely accepted as the leader in food safety auditing. All of our facilities along with our fields are inspected and certified to ensure compliance with the strictest standards of food safety. "All of our facilities are inspected and cleaned on a daily basis to ensure cleanliness and proper temperature levels. Our employees are trained and follow guidelines on sanitation and hygiene. "We take extra care in storing and packing our produce in the most effective ways possible. We go above and beyond to supply the highest quality produce possible. "All of our products are tagged and coded to ensure traceability back to the field and crew that harvested it along with when it was packed." Regarding the shipping dates, according to the Burch recall notice, all the melons were shipped from July 15 through July 27. The recall was posted July 28. -- Coral Beach, Staff Writer

August, 15, 2012 at 01:41 PM

Interesting was that the tests were preformed by the USDA Microbiological Data Program, a program that was on the government chopping block just a few weeks ago. One may figure that this would help their future survival, and be a warning to other produce packers that a program fighting for survival may be working a bit harder to find contaminated product and nab few big headlines. I would like to know how large were the samples they used to find just one melon of each variety. One would think a good reporter for The Packer would have that in their reporting.

Coral Beach    
August, 16, 2012 at 09:21 AM

Norm, Similar to police and other law enforcement entities, the USDA and FDA have strict policies regarding ongoing investigations. The inspectors are not allowed to speak to media and the agencies' public information officers are not allowed to disclose specific details. As a good journalist I always contact the agencies and ask about details, on the off chance that some are available for public release. Rest assured The Packer will continue to cover this and other ongoing investigations and will report details when they become available. -- Coral Beach, Staff Writer

August, 15, 2012 at 06:58 PM

I agree, Norm. I have been thinking the very same thing prior to this recall. They are fighting for their survival and stepping up on the sampling program to do so, not to say that the results weren't justified.

August, 15, 2012 at 10:23 PM

Randy, I agree weship2u2@sbcglobal.net

Concerned Retailer    
Florida  |  August, 16, 2012 at 06:43 AM

" Complete distribution details on the melons are not available, according to the FDA." translation... There is no traceability. In 2012 they should not be allowed to ship any retailer or any wholesaler who sells a retailer. Retail buyers need to start walking th walk not just talking the talk. This grower was probably a buck cheape, and wink wink nod nod... It was ok that he had no food safety program.

TN  |  August, 16, 2012 at 08:04 AM

If they are willing to ruin farmers for one melon and no illnesses, no farm or food business is safe. Absolute safety cannot be legislated. There is a difference between blatant disregard for sanitation and burning down the house to kill a cockroach. Every thinking person knows that much of the so-called food safety demands are nothing more than an excuse to produce mountains of paperwork to provide jobs for regulators, desk huggers, and other nonproductive people. I trust my farmers far more than an agency whose existence depends on finding (dare I say creating?) problems for someone where negligence may not be involved. We live in a microbial atmosphere. We would all be dead without dirt, if not of bacteria, then of starvation. Why are we not hearing the questions about why our immune systems don't protect us anymore? Could it be because the sterilization of the food industry has tricked our bodies into believing that what we eat is not food? http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/opinion/lets-add-a-little-dirt-to-our-diet.html? _r=1&smid=fb-share. Just some dirty food for thought.

NC  |  August, 16, 2012 at 10:24 AM

The grower has one of the better food safety programs on the eastern seaboard... and every box of melons had a sticker on it for traceability, but once this fruit went into the warehouse, and out to stores, all traceability was lost, because in most instances the fruit is not tracked beyond the warehouse... a lot of retailers are this way, and it has to be fixed. They need to be held to the same standards growers are held to, so that traceabaility can be a reality in our industry. The FDA also needs to release more information... this is a very unfortunate, and potentially dangerous circumstance, but the grower did was he was supposed to... despite all that is bad, I think ALL facts should be noted.

August, 16, 2012 at 09:21 PM

We have dealt with them for years, never a problem. We need to keep this discusion going. I still think more growers need to know about: "Interesting was that the tests were preformed by the USDA Microbiological Data Program, a program that was on the government chopping block just a few weeks ago. One may figure that this would help their future survival, and be a warning to other produce packers that a program fighting for survival may be working a bit harder to find contaminated product and nab few big headlines." Don't be surprised if there are more recalls on other produce items

tampa  |  August, 17, 2012 at 10:52 AM

I'M desagree with you beacuse the melons canbbe traced back per unti if you put a traceability cod eon each sticcker or label tha same code have to be printed on the bos and in they software tha creates the tracebility data and trust me this way i can be traced from your farms all the way to your fridge i will do it for free for this company just to show them how easy is the traceability

nc  |  August, 17, 2012 at 05:34 PM

First learn how to spell then come show them

kellye graves    
brandon  |  August, 22, 2012 at 09:47 AM

My mother is lying in ICU fighting for life because of this!

Jackson  |  August, 28, 2012 at 09:17 PM

Kellye, I hope your mother is on the road to recovery...... What were her symptoms and how did you know it was the produce?

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