Both operations also failed to properly pre-cool cantaloupe, according to the FDA. The Chamberlain packing shed had evidence of birds roosting above packing equipment and bird droppings throughout the shed, the FDA reported.
Inspectors question water practices
FDA inspectors noted that the agricultural water Chamberlain Farm used during growing, harvesting and packing “may not have been of adequate quality and therefore cannot be eliminated as a potential contributor in the spread of salmonella contamination.”
The FDA also found problems with a well that provided water for Chamberlain Farm’s greenhouse where cantaloupe seedlings were grown. The agency cited problems with other wells used for irrigation and packinghouse water.
The well water did not test positive for salmonella, but it did have E. coli and coliform. According to the March 1 FDA report, “it is unusual to note indicators of fecal contamination to be recovered from ground water sources.”
Chamberlain told FDA investigators he did not use any irrigation on one of his four cantaloupe fields. The investigators questioned that statement.
“This is extraordinary given the water use demands typically required to commercially produce cantaloupe and watermelon, particularly given the extreme heat and drought conditions which occurred in Southwest Indiana during the summer growing season of 2012,” according to the FDA report.
The FDA reported Chamberlain did not have written food safety procedures or documents about monitoring wash water used at the packing shed.