Correction: FDA inquiry ongoing; no listeria found at Burch Farms - The Packer

Correction: FDA inquiry ongoing; no listeria found at Burch Farms

08/02/2012 04:29:00 PM
Coral Beach

For an updated report, please see: Burch says recalled cantaloupes are Caribbean Golds, not Athenas.

logo for Burch Farms, Faison, N.C. A recall of about 5,200 Athena cantaloupes in two states ballooned to more than 188,900 cantaloupes distributed in 10 states after inspectors found “unsanitary conditions” at Burch Equipment LLC’s cantaloupe packing facility.

The Faison, N.C., grower, which operates under the name Burch Farms, initially recalled 580 cases of cantaloupes July 28. A positive result for listeria from a random sampling by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Microbiological Data Program sparked the recall.

The voluntary recall expanded Aug. 2 to include 13,888 cases and 581 bulk bins of the Athena melons. No illnesses had been reported, according to the Aug. 2 recall notice. The cases each hold nine melons and the bins each have 110 cantaloupes.

“The recall expansion is based on unsanitary conditions found at the cantaloupe packing shed during FDA’s ongoing inspection that may allow for contamination of cantaloupes with listeria monocytogenes,” the Aug. 2 notice states.

Although all of the recalled cantaloupes were grown at Burch Farms, some may carry stickers with the name Cottle Strawberry Inc. and a produce lookup code of 4319, according to the Food and Drug Administration notice. Cottle is not involved in the recall.

sticker from recalled Burch Farms cantaloupeSome of the Burch Farms cantaloupes were packed in sweet potato boxes, according to a public warning issued by FDA on July 30. The recall notice said the Burch cantaloupes each had oval-shaped red stickers with the words “Burch Farms” and Product Look-Up codes of 4319.

FDA officials did not respond to questions regarding the investigation or traceability of the cantaloupes. It is not known if the grower is still harvesting melons.

Repeated calls to the Burch Farms phone number listed on the recall notice as the consumer contact were answered by an unidentified woman who said the company had no comment.

The initial recall notice stated the Burch melons had been shipped to retailers in New York and Maine. However, there were reports that some ShopRite retail stores in New Jersey had some of the cantaloupes.

Hannaford Supermarkets logoHannaford Supermarkets, Scarborough, Maine, issued its own recall notice for the Burch Farms melons July 28. The chain has 181 stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom said Aug. 2 that he could not comment on the recall or what kind of containers the cantaloupes had been shipped in. He referred all questions to Burch Farms.

The expanded recall notice states the more than 188,900 cantaloupes were distributed in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. The recalled fruit was shipped July 15-27.

One day before the recall was expanded, some cantaloupe growers were optimistic that the recall would not have much impact on sales, especially if no illnesses are connected to the melons.

“I don’t know how aware the general public and buyers elsewhere are of the situation,” said John Gilstrap, manager of the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board in Dinuba. “I haven’t heard of anything in the way of a ripple effect yet.”

Steve Patricio, a cantaloupe grower who is also the chairman of the California advisory board and chairman of the Center for Produce Safety, said Aug. 1 the industry is watching the recall carefully, hoping that mainstream media won’t sensationalize the story.

Note on correction: The original headline on this story was incorrect. The FDA reported inspectors found "unsanitary conditions" at Burch Farms cantaloupe packing shed that "may allow for contamination of cantaloupes with listeria monocytogenes."

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USA  |  August, 03, 2012 at 11:20 AM

hush-hush, do not report, let the consumer get sick and die and wonder why! Great attitude from the industry. Of course is no illness reported yet, as it takes almost 2 weeks until some one get sick.

Tucson  |  August, 03, 2012 at 03:32 PM

The cantaloupes in question have been recalled. All stakeholders are fully engaged. What would you change? Do you propose the media create an indictment of the 99.9% of the professional cantaloupe growers who operate a tight ship and provide safe and healthy food? What hasn't happened that should have from "the industry?"Please enlighten us.

Texas  |  August, 03, 2012 at 04:55 PM

The last cantaloupe recall involved a transitional crop (organic product packed in regular cantaloupe cartons) Is this again an organic crop cantamination? We all realize the political correctness to save the organic trade when time & time again the recalls involve organic grown products

Atlanta  |  August, 04, 2012 at 12:54 PM

One bad operator can spoil so much for the rest. I wonder what plantet this company is living on, certainty not this one. Absolutely no excuse for this type of poor quality control especially after last year.

south Carolina  |  August, 06, 2012 at 11:15 AM

I know the Burch family very well. No better farmers anywhere. They have a very clean operation. An outbreak like this can happen anywhere so dont put these people down when you dont know them or their operation. the usda found a problem. It doesnt say what it was only it could possibly cause a problem.

houston  |  August, 08, 2012 at 09:52 PM

retailers please buy cantaloupes from shippers and growers whohave a specific food safety program in place and packs in a melon box rather than a sweet potato box! Reward the growers and shippers who are in it day in and day out to do a good job.....instead of trying to buy the cheapest melons out there your credibility speaks volumes. And no more packing sheds come on we know if shippers pack in a shed they better have a lot of food safety standards, audits, testing in place. Etc.. Has the melon industry been punched in the eye without this! California- Arizona shippers are sow of the best around buy from them.

Pennsylvania  |  August, 11, 2012 at 09:28 AM

I just found out about an expanded recall of burch cantalope and honedews, so I did an internet search for "burch farms recall retail stores" to see if our local supermarket carried them. Of course, I couldn't find that info but I did see a link to this site. I know the farmers are in a bind, but to keep contaminated fruits on the market for over a month, and to keep expanding the recalls to fruits that you bought three weeks ago is ridiculous. The main thing is that the consumer can no longer trust the industries to regulate themselves. When we were in Mexico, we were told not to eat fruit that hasn't been peeled or cooked. So I like to buy made in USA produce, but it looks like I can't trust the USA produce either. Maybe the produce companies need to buy insurance policies on the safety of their product. Then they can issue a recall sooner and not lose so much money that they go bankrupt. Better safe than sorry.

David Purser    
Texas  |  August, 13, 2012 at 09:29 AM

Frank, we are a small company but a leader in sanitizers for melons. We have a sanitizers that one simply adds water. We are the safest on the market and in fact our sanitizers are the most effective and can be used to treat drinking water. We have been used by melons processors for years. In fact, one did our original research over 12 years ago. I agree with you but do not like to just call after a major event. We think farmers always ge the rough deal. I have farm interest as well. I would love to share with Bill Birch or some other contact ( if you can provide that). We are legitimate and you can check our website at Would you be able to call me to speak and perhaps see if we can help the Birch Farms Inc. Our company is honest and we are strong Christian folks just wanted to help in a good way. David Purser, Pres. Intervention Pro-Tech. Our products are used by many produce companies and we are organic and all government certerfied. I can send you info to screen before you provide me contact with Birch Farms. We honestly want to help as well as sell our product.

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