(UPDATED COVERAGE, Aug. 10) Burch Equipment LLC, which recalled 188,900 athena cantaloupes because of possible listeria contamination, announced a week later the notice specified the wrong variety — the implicated cantaloupes are caribbean golds.
Burch officials corrected the notice on the Food and Drug Administration website seven days after the initial July 28 recall of about 5,200 cantaloupes. On Aug. 3 they revealed the variety was incorrect in the original notice and in the Aug. 2 notice expanding the recall.
No illnesses have been reported, but it can take up 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. A random sample taken at a Hannaford Supermarket in New York by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Microbiological Data Program tested positive for listeria and sparked the initial recall.
Burch expanded the recall after inspectors found “unsanitary conditions at the cantaloupe packing shed during FDA’s ongoing inspection that may allow for contamination of cantaloupes with listeria monocytogenes,” the grower’s recall notice states.
FDA spokeswoman Patricia El-Hinnawy said the agency’s investigation is ongoing and therefore she cannot comment on specific details. She said investigators have been at the growing and packing operation in Faison, N.C., to collect test samples, but results were not available as of Aug. 9.
Caribbean gold cantaloupes have a much longer shelf life than athenas and could therefore pose a longer-term threat to consumers who may still have them, said Trevor Suslow, extension research specialist at the University of California-Davis and volunteer at the Center for Produce Safety.
Tracking the mistake
Jimmy Burch Jr., of Burch Equipment LLC, 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 the random test sample in New York.
Courtesy FDAMost of the cantaloupes recalled by Burch Equipment LLC had red stickers with "Burch Farms" printed on them. “The FDA was breathing down our necks so hard and threatening legal action when my dad was proofreading 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.”