UPDATED: Indiana cantaloupe linked to multi-state outbreak - The Packer

UPDATED: Indiana cantaloupe linked to multi-state outbreak

08/17/2012 01:57:00 PM
Coral Beach

(UPDATED COVERAGE, Aug. 20) An unidentified Indiana cantaloupe grower has recalled cantaloupes that are linked to two deaths and 141 illnesses from salmonella.

Three states' health officials linked salmonella cases to melons from Southwest Indiana. The deaths were in Kentucky.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. began pulling cantaloupe from the suspect region Aug. 17, according to spokeswoman Diana Gee. Officials from the Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and Schnucks Supermarkets, St. Louis, made simialr announcements.

Lori Willis, Schnucks spokeswoman, said the regional chain pulled all cantaloupes from southwest Indiana and has coordniated with its suppliers to procure cantaloupes from other regions so that supplies would not be disrupted for consumers.

Kroger's manager of publc affairs for its Delta Division in Memphis, Tenn., said the company's stores do not have cantaloupes from the area of Indiana where the investigation is ongoing. In his statement, Joe Bell said Kroger's Delta Division is selling cantaloupes sourced from California. He said the investigation does not include any suppliers that the chain has used this year.

In an outbreak report, officials with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the grower stopped shipping cantaloupes for the rest of the season.

Kraig Humbaugh of Kentucky's Department for Public Health told Reuters that watermelons from the same region in Indiana are also being investigated as another possible source of a smaller salmonella outbreak.

The United Fresh Produce Association, Washington D.C., issued a member alert with talking points for members in an attempt to minimize negative impact.

"United Fresh, working in cooperation with other produce industry organizations, advises members to be prepared to address questions from customers, business partners or consumers about the outbreak," according to the e-mail.

Information that United Fresh suggests members to cover include:

  • Only cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana (and most likely a single farm) have been linked to the salmonella outbreak;
  • The FDA is expected to identify the farm linked to the outbreak, helping locate  product in the supply chain;
  • The cantaloupe industry follows stringent, science-based guidance to minimize contamination; and
  • The produce industry is committed to the highest standards of food safety, and considers consumer safety to be the highest priority.

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William Kanitz Pres.    
Florida USA  |  August, 17, 2012 at 08:23 PM

AH, Come on! what they need is ScoringAg's database traceback system. Only takes TWO seconds to find everyone of the handlers from field to fork! ScoringAg only costs $1.10 per field per year. In a news release issued Aug. 17, Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Steve Davis said officials are working on the traceback of the cantaloupes to find the grower or growers and possible distribution locations. Simple, Fast and FSMA complient as of today.

Los Angeles  |  August, 19, 2012 at 08:44 AM

come on retailers... your Vice Presidents tell us we have to be Primus, Harvestmark, PTI, etc etc etc to be a vendor... We spend the money and do it right... but when the market is in an oversupply situation and some broker offers you $1 off a case, buyers ditch us for more margin over food safety... if your VPs are going to talk the talk, buyers need to walk the walk... This should not be happening...

CA  |  August, 19, 2012 at 05:38 PM

I agree... in addition, I think it's noteworthy that a lot of retailers completely lose the ability to trace product once it hits their warehouse and goes out to stores. Regardless of whether or not a vendor can trace to the pallet or to the case, or what stickers w/ info are used on the fruit, if the retailers don't do their part as well as growers, we're not doing our best as an industry to be able to act in these circumstances.

SouthEast  |  August, 20, 2012 at 12:28 PM

If product is out there and making people sick, then YES it IS a RECALL. It is only a "withdrawal" if it has not yet reached the consumer. Also, along with what "vendor..." and "Anon"was saying, when will the RETAILERS start to have some food safety in their stores? How many nose-picking and butt-scratching customers are in the grocery aisles squeezing fruits and vegetables, with ZERO attention being paid to cleanliness. How many people have touched that RAW apple you are about to eat? And how many of THOSE people had just been handling a leaking package of raw chicken or raw ground beaf? Grocery stores have ZERO safeguards in place once the produce reaches their displays. How often do retailers clean their grocery carts? Was there just raw chicken juice in the same spot I set my bag of grapes, with the grapes touching the cart through the holes in the bag? How about at checkout when people put their produce on the dirty checkout conveyor, where there are moist spots that could very easily be from the leaky packages of meat the person in front of you just had?

USA  |  August, 20, 2012 at 07:32 PM

PTI is only for some big chains to ring up the check-out register by replacing the PLU code with a GS1 code. There is no food-safety or traceability behind a GTIN number, only the amount and the size of the box. You can't even do a search of the barcode number to see who owns it or produced the product. It’s forcing something down to the growers that’s costly and doesn’t work for them. The barcode information is lost during distribution and no item-level traceback is provided on the sticker the size of my thumb nail. I wonder why the industry is not using the system described in the first comment by William Kanitz to save money and lives. John is right, food safety and traceability at the retail center should be practiced there first with clean and sanitary carts and shopping baskets, then go down to the wholesaler and see if he can trace it back. Us cantaloupe growers who do food safety are getting hammered!

The future  |  August, 20, 2012 at 10:24 PM

John your point is valid but unfortunately not the case in this particular situation. This outbreak and many other like it are not happening in the retail stores but at the farms. Theses infected lopes are from one part of Indiana and possibly from one particular farm. This has nothing to do with the sanitary standards at the retail level.

california  |  August, 21, 2012 at 05:00 PM

There is no requirement that your traceability system needs to be overly complex, just comprehensive. More importantly, ScoringAg is not the only vendor with a useful solution. Look up TrueTrac, Harvest Mark, and Food LogiQ...they provide the similar utility. As a point of clarification, PTI is a case level supply chain initiative, not point of sale product. It is driven by PMA, United and CPMA, but it has not acheived industry wide-support and in my opinion has questionable usefulness. By contrast, PLU stickers with barcodes work extremely well for identifying a shipper and for point of sale transactions. Depending upon the type of barcode used (e.g. DataBar or UPC), an incredible amount of information can be stored and trasferred with a simple scan. Most reputable shippers are using these stickers for identification and item level traceability. They need not be expensive either. GS1 registration is about $500 per year for up to 99 GTINs. Check with a local label vendor.

california  |  August, 21, 2012 at 05:11 PM

The California industry has been working diligently for years, calling on all domestic producers to act with regard to food safety. Unfortunately, many don’t listen and others don’t care. That being said, we have a much bigger issue on our hands that begins with the BUYER. Retailers, distributors and food service providers do set the standards, but should be responsible enough to buy products from approved suppliers. Despite science to the contrary, buyers continue to purchase cantaloupes from “at risk” growing regions and place more value on the cost of freight than the safety of the product. While the “buy local” movement may appeal to the customer, what is local may not always be safest. In my opinion, purchasing decisions should be based upon available science and the safety of the product.

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