The 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.
Patricio Steve 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.
The produce rule was due in January, but FDA was late submitting it and it has been stalled at the White House Office of Management and Budget for months.
Gilmer Ray Gilmer, United Fresh vice president of communications, said the association has volunteered to provide information and resources to help the government with the rules.
“We are talking about food safety, and every day of delay has an impact on our ability to increase the standards,” Gilmer said.