During the 2013 summer, Food and Drug Administration field officers surveyed U.S. cantaloupe operations, visiting packinghouses and sampling melons.
The main result was a better understanding of what the industry was doing right and what could be improved, according to a Michigan State University newsletter from Extension educator Phil Tocco.
Most samples came back free of Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria. And most growers were following good agricultural practices even if they weren't certified as such or keeping records documenting food safety practices.
A few samples did come back positive for pathogens, and further analysis linked them to risky practices.
• When using surface water to irrigate melons, it is important to know whether the water had a prior use that could compromise food safety. If a river or stream flows past a livestock pasture area or feedlot before it is used for irrigation, this could cause issues in the produce irrigated with it.
• Once produce is harvested, areas that contact the fruit need to be kept clean and sanitary. Ideally, surface areas should be sanitized or made of single-use materials. Even truck beds that transport produce boxes need to be clean and sanitary. If the truck bed was used to transport livestock prior to produce, power-washing the bed to remove all manure is advised.
For more information, visit Michigan State University's Agrifood Safety Work Group.