(CLARIFIED) FAISON, N.C. — A listeria recall is prompting Burch Farms to end its cantaloupe program.
Burch finished its cantaloupe season July 27 after the Food and Drug Administration posted a recall notice after random testing detected the listeria in the cantaloupe; the FDA later found listeria at the company’s facilities.
Jimmy Burch, co-owner of Burch Farms, said the risk isn’t worth the reward.
“We’re done. No more cantaloupe,” Burch said Aug. 29. “That part of our life is over with. We will let someone else raise the cantaloupe. We have already towed the equipment out of the building. It’s not worth the liability.”
A grower-shipper of sweet potatoes and greens, Burch said his operation packed cantaloupe in a separate packing line three miles away from its headquarters.
Cantaloupe constituted 1% of Burch’s sales, he said.
Burch said an FDA representative visited the operation on Aug. 21 and officially closed the recall case.
“It’s over,” Burch said. “No one’s sick, thank God. It has been an absolutely horrible experience.”
FDA spokeswoman Patricia El-Hinnawy, however, said the agency's investigation was still ongoing Sept. 5.
He said he grew and packed cantaloupe using proper sanitation and washed with Sanidate.
“I thought we were covered,” Burch said. “We thought we were good to go. Our equipment was calibrated.”
Saying Listeria resides in dirt in every acre of land all over the world, Burch said there’s no way to pack cantaloupe 100% free of contamination.
“It’s a time bomb,” he said. “It will happen again. This is a part of nature. It’s just a matter of time when there will be another outbreak somewhere.”
According to the FDA, Burch sold the cantaloupes to wholesalers June 23 to July 27.
Note on clarification: According to the FDA, the investigation concerning Burch Farms and its connection to the listeria contamination was still ongoing as of Sept. 5.