Fresh Del Monte is filing a second lawsuit against a government agency after the Food and Drug Administration banned its imports from a Guatemalan cantaloupe grower.
Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc. filed a notice to sue the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division and one of the agency’s officials, according to an Aug. 29 news release.
Del Monte on Aug. 22 filed a suit asking a federal judge to order the FDA to end an import alert restricting the company’s imports of cantaloupe from Fresh Asuncion Mita farm. The FDA issued the alert July 15.
“The Notice to Sue alerts the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division of its conduct and misleading allegations regarding Del Monte Fresh’s imported cantaloupes as the source of a Salmonella outbreak earlier this year despite the lack of sufficient factual basis,” Del Monte officials said in the release.
In March, Fresh Del Monte recalled Guatemalan cantaloupe after the FDA stated it found an epidemiologic link between the cantaloupes and about a dozen reported cases of Salmonella Panama.
Although the release didn't name the Oregon agency official, Del Monte vice president of marketing Dennis Christou confirmed it is senior epidemiologist William Keene of the Oregon Public Health Division. Keene was quoted in numerous media reports on the FDA’s March recall of the cantaloupes. It’s unknown what “misleading allegations” Del Monte is referring to.
“One reason this outbreak was so small is that all (of the precautions) Del Monte was doing were pretty effective,” Keene was quoted in the April 4 issue of The Packer.
In a May 2010 feature, The Oregonian newspaper called Keene the state's “top foodborne illness detective” and credited him with saving lives for his work on past outbreaks.
“He's one of the food safety heroes in the U.S.,” Michael Osterholm, head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said in the Oregonian story.
“The FDA investigation ultimately found no connection between Del Monte Fresh cantaloupes and any cases of Salmonella Panama, including in Oregon,” according to the Fresh Del Monte release.
The FDA ended the recall July 29.