Listeria contamination is confirmed at the Burch Farms melon packing facility in Faison, N.C., according to the Food and Drug Administration.
In an update posted on its website late Aug. 13, FDA officials said the listeria finding spurred Burch to expand its recall to include all cantaloupe and honeydew melons shipped this season. No illnesses have been reported in relation to the recalled melons.
“This recall expansion is based on the FDA’s finding of Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) on a honeydew melon grown and packed by Burch Farms. The recall expansion is also a result of the agency’s finding of L. mono in the environment of the firm’s packing facility,” according to the notice.
Burch Equipment LLC, doing business as Burch Farms, originally recalled about 5,200 cantaloupes July 28 after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Microbiological Data Program found listeria on one melon at retail during a random sampling.
The grower expanded the recall to include 188,900 cantaloupes Aug. 3 and corrected the variety from athena to caribbean golds. That expansion came after the FDA revealed it had found “unsanitary conditions” at the Burch packing shed.
Owner Jimmy Burch Sr. did not respond immediately to calls for comment on Aug. 14.
On Aug. 13, Burch told The Packer that FDA inspectors had apparently completed their work at his farm and packing facility, but had not provided him with results of samples taken there. He had previously said he uses the sanitizer SaniDate in his packing facility’s water.
Burch said he planted only about 10 acres of honeydews for this season. The entire crop went to wholesalers. He said his farm has not had food safety issues in the past.
“We shipped 3,000 loads of produce last year with no problems,” Burch said.
According to Burch and the FDA, the recalled honeydews do not have any identifying stickers. They were packed in cartons labeled “melons.”
In its latest recall notice the company reminded consumers that the listeria incubation period “can be one to three weeks, but may be in the range of three to 70 days.”
Complete distribution details on the melons are not available, according to the FDA.
The Burch cantaloupes and honeydew melons were sold to distributors between June 23 and July 27, in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia, the Aug. 10 recall states.
“The melons may have further been distributed to retail stores, restaurants and food service facilities in other states,” according to the recall.