For retailers who produce fresh-cut melon products in house, Gorny advises three key areas to scrutinize among the FDA’s recommended guidelines: temperature controls, proper sanitation and basic employee food safety training.
“Keep the fruit at 41 degrees or below,” he says. “Potential human pathogens can proliferate if the temperature is not kept cold enough. The preparation areas must be clean. Chemical sanitizers, such as chlorine and quaternary ammonium compounds should be used. Employees should be trained in proper food-handling procedures, such as hand-washing and wearing gloves.”
Gorny also advises against using old or damaged fruit for cantaloupe and other melon fresh-cut products. “Research has shown there is a higher incidence with human pathogens associated with fruits and vegetables that have decay on them,” he says.
Some retailers use a mix of outside and in-store processing. “Much of our fresh-cut melon and cantaloupe is purchased already prepacked,” says Cas Tryba, food safety manager for Big Y Foods, a 48-store chain based in Springfield, Mass. Personnel at some Big Y stores prepare some or all of their fresh-cut produce in-house.
Tryba says melons and cantaloupes are prechilled in a walk-in cooler. Employees double wash the outer skin of the fruit with a scrubbing brush before cutting with cleaned and sanitized knives.
Policy manuals and standard operation procedures are available and employees are responsible for reading and following the procedures, Tryba says. Laminated charts with critical control points are posted as well. Employees make sure to date packs and cut limited amounts so no fruit is left out in the backroom for longer than 30 minutes.
At the single store Shop ‘N Save, Washington, Pa., one designated employee prepares fresh-cut cantaloupe, melon and vegetable trays at a station in the department. “The store was designed for this area to be out in the department,” says Bill Snyder, produce manager.
The station is behind a half-wall that is fronted by an ice case and contains two 8-foot stainless steel tables that hold a scale and wrapper. The area also has a three-bay sink for washing, rinsing and sanitizing. A Formica backsplash allows for easy cleanup. The station has its own equipment, utensils, cleaning supplies and composite material cutting boards. “Everything stays out here,” Snyder says.