Cantaloupe growers frustrated; guidelines expected soon

08/23/2012 04:11:00 PM
Coral Beach

For additional information on the recall, please see "Outbreak linked to Chamberlain Farms cantaloupe."

cantaloupeThe recall of Chamberlain Farms cantaloupe linked to a salmonella outbreak hit other Indiana growers hard when customers took a guilt-by-association approach to buying because the specific grower wasn’t named for six days.

Dan Egel, a plant pathologist at Purdue University and treasurer of the Southwest Indiana Melon and Vegetable Association, said some growers had abandoned melons in their fields.

“One grower I spoke with has already plowed them under,” Egel said Aug. 21. “Others are saying they won’t plant any next year. One man had $15,000 worth in his cooler and he said he was just going to throw them out because no one wants to buy from the area.”

Cantaloupe growers out West are also upset, saying inconsistent expectations from receivers has created a double standard, according to Hank Giclas, vice president of Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers.

Stee PatricioPatricioSteve Patricio, cantaloupe grower and president of Westside Produce, Firebaugh, Calif., said buyers have dropped the ball by putting too much faith in suppliers and growers who do not use good food safety practices.

As president of the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, Patricio helped develop a marketing order that includes food safety requirements.

“The buy side has traded increased delivery costs for reduced food safety procurement costs,” Patricio said.

Dan Vache, vice president of supply chain management for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington D.C., said all entities in the supply chain share responsibilities. He said retailers and distributors should require suppliers to use good food safety practices, and they need to have traceability programs themselves.

“Some of these issues will go away when we achieve whole-chain traceability,” Vache said.

Food safety advocates and some produce professionals suggested the Food and Drug Administration tardiness in issuing rules required by the Food Safety Modernization Act has contributed to recent recalls and outbreaks.


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Produce Guy    
Texas  |  August, 28, 2012 at 09:06 AM

This is yet another symptom of the times... We want to prevent and regulate absolutely everything, but we want a smaller government. Retailers want traceability, higher liability insurance from suppliers, food safety etc.., but they want cheaper prices. Consumers want it all, they want it cheap, and they are not willing to compromise on anything. Something is going to have to give! How about having an honest public conversation about the realities, costs and (yes) COMPROMISES of achieving each one of those goals? If we contine kicking the can down the road like we have been we will continue to lose good companies and good growers that will not be willing to continue putting up with unprofitable businesses. Are we willing to live without Cantalupes, Papayas, Spinach, Tomatoes and on and on and on...?

Daniel Lambrecht    
Colorado  |  August, 28, 2012 at 11:13 AM

I second the comments of "Produce Guy". Could not have said it any better.

Ted Schultze    
Maple Grove, MN  |  September, 04, 2012 at 11:23 AM

I think the produce industry has to get used to the fact that there will be increased surveilance and monitoring of product as a whole because so much is now imported and the outbreaks keep happening. There will be additional cost but it will be a cost of staying in business. The buyers will always be asking for lower prices and it will be up to the seller to establish their value add. Tell me the business that does not if you disagreee. Every business I know of has exactly the same challenge so it's time to stop complaining and get it done.

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