Kertesz said Fresh Quest is HACCP- and GlobalGAP-certified. He said the listeria outbreak demonstrates that all growers — large or small, foreign or domestic — should be held to a high and equal standard.
“Retailers support local growers, but they need to be accountable for what they grow, too,” he said.
“Everyone should have the same rules applied to them. As you can see, one small local grower affected the entire industry.”
Kertesz said Fresh Quest does its own lab tests on product but also uses third-party lab tests.
“We do everything possible to make sure our product is safe upon arrival to the customer, but the burden shouldn’t fall solely on suppliers,” he said.
“The burden is on everyone involved. The goal is to keep product flowing.”
Kertesz said retailers who communicated to consumers that their supplies were safe and not related to the Colorado recall lost fewer sales than those who did not.
“It’s up to the retailer to make sure consumers know the product is safe,” he said.
Last fall’s outbreak was not the first time cantaloupe was pegged as the source of a large-scale recall.
From 2000-02, there were four multi-state salmonella outbreaks traced back to Mexican cantaloupes.
“I think that with the unfortunate incident of the cantaloupes from Colorado, the public, marketers and authorities have realized that the problem with this commodity is not specific to (a) certain country or countries,” said Miky Suarez, manager of MAS Melons & Grapes LLC, Nogales, Ariz.
“It can happen anywhere. That is the nature of this product due to the netting of the fruit. I think that growers will take a longer look when deciding what acreage they will put on cantaloupes, and in some cases whether or not to grow them at all.”
Suarez said some of MAS’s partners grow cantaloupes but not for export to the United States.
He said the company’s melon imports to the U.S. and Canada are limited to honeydews.
“We would not like to risk it by having a problem with cantaloupes,” he said.
“I think that a very important thing to realize is that the food safety with this product does not end at the production farm and pack house. Food safety has to be continued all the way to the consumer.”