The North Carolina grower who expanded a listeria-related cantaloupe recall to more than 188,000 melons in recent days says the cantaloupes are actually Caribbean Golds — not Athenas — as the original and expanded recalls stated.
No illnesses have been reported, but it can take from two weeks to two months for listeria symptoms to develop after exposure, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The melons shipped July 15-27 to 10 states.
Caribbean Gold cantaloupes have a much longer shelf life than Athenas and they could pose a longer-term threat because consumers may still have them in their home refrigerators, said Trevor Suslow, extension research specialist at the University of California-Davis who volunteers at the Center for Produce Safety.
Most of the 188,902 cantaloupes recalled by Burch Equipment LLC, Faison, N.C., have stickers like the red one above. However, some of the cantaloupes have stickers from Cottle Strawberry Inc., such as the one below. All of the recalled cantaloupes were grown by Burch. Cottle is not involved in the recall.The recall by Burch Farms, operating under the name Burch Equipment LLC, began July 28 with 5,200 melons distributed to two states. On Aug. 2 the farm expanded the recall.
In the expanded recall notice, Burch warned retailers and consumers that some of the cantaloupes carried stickers from Cottle Strawberry Inc., but Cottle and its crops are not included in the recall.
Jimmy Burch Jr., of Burch Farms, Faison, N.C., said a government inspector made the error about the variety of melons being recalled while filling out a form during collection of random test samples for the Microbiological Data Program at retail in New York.
“The FDA was breathing down our necks so hard and threatening legal action when my dad was proof reading the notice they sent he just read over the word Athena and didn’t notice it was the wrong variety,” Burch said Aug. 6. “There’s still only one melon that has tested positive.”
Officials with the Food and Drug Administration say they can’t discuss details about an ongoing investigation.
Regarding the Cottle Strawberry Inc. stickers on the cantaloupes, Burch said his packing facility ran out of their own stickers and had some Cottle stickers with the same Price Look-Up code, so they used them.
“We shouldn’t have done that, but we had an order we needed to get out. We won’t do that again,” Burch said of the Cottle stickers.
Burch said inspectors had been at his packing facility and growing fields the week of Aug. 1 and he expected them to return Aug. 7.
“We’re running business as usual as much as we can,” Burch said, adding that the farm handles a variety of commodities, each with their own separate packing facilities.