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.
Courtesy FDABurch Farms used these melon boxes to ship its honeydew melons, which have been recalled because of possible listeria contamination. The Food and Drug Administration stated in a news release that it is not known for sure where the melons were distributed.Company spokeswoman Teresa Burch said it has not had its cantaloupe operation audited by a third party for food safety practices, and although the company has traceability programs for other items, there is none in place for its melons.
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. said Aug. 14 that investigators had just left his farm that morning.
“I asked the guy who took the samples and he said he couldn’t tell me anything,” Burch said. “They just said ‘you’ll be getting results in a few days’ and left.”
Burch said he uses the sanitizer SaniDate in his packing facility’s water. According to the Burch Farms website, the operations are audited by PrimusLabs.
PrimusLabs in-house counsel Ryan Fothergill confirmed that the company has audited the leafy greens processing and field operations at Burch Farms but not the cantaloupe operation. Fothergill said Primus records show its staff was last at the Burch operation in March.
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 from June 23 to 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.