“The defendants were aware that their cantaloupes could be contaminated with harmful bacteria if not sufficiently washed. The chlorine spray, if used, would have reduced the risk of microbial contamination of the fruit.”
According to the FDA report, deficiencies at the packing facility included water pooling on floors, dirt and plant material on equipment, a floor that was difficult to clean, inadequate trench drains and equipment that could not be properly cleaned.
Multiple environmental samples and whole cantaloupe from the packing shed were positive for the outbreak strains of listeria monocytogenes, FDA reported.
“… it is likely that the contamination occurred in the packing facility,” the FDA report states. “It is also likely that the contamination proliferated during cold storage.”
The FDA inspectors reported all field samples were negative for listeria monocytogenes. The samples included soil, wild animal excrement, perimeter and furrow drag swabs, agricultural water, pond water and cantaloupes.
The agency also pointed to another likely contamination source, a truck used to haul culled cantaloupes from the packing shed to a cattle feeding operation.