Cantaloupe at the crossroads

08/24/2012 09:40:00 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

The unwritten rule in the produce industry is that a company should not market its product as safer than a competitor’s.

The thinking is that once consumers get in their heads that a fruit or vegetable is more safe, that means another is less safe, and then maybe they’ll avoid the commodity or category altogether.

But what if your company or growing region has a strong food safety record, drafted best practices documents, followed and documented them, and then suffers for the second year in a row as a different region’s product kills consumers?

The California cantaloupe industry is understandably upset it’s being found guilty by association to an Indiana salmonella outbreak that has been linked to more than 100 illnesses and two deaths. 

This isn’t even the first melon recall of the summer, as Burch Farms of Faison, N.C., recalled all its cantaloupe and honeydew in early August because of a listeria contamination. No one became ill during that recall.

There are some positive signs, as a number of produce associations and independent researchers are working on a national commodity-specific guidelines for cantaloupes, which should be published before the end of the year.

One can’t help but ask the question: Why did it take a second deadly outbreak to develop national guidelines?

The industry, along with the Center for Produce Safety, organized a meeting in January to address the problems and future of cantaloupes after the Colorado outbreak.

Cantaloupe grower-shippers need to do something more substantial this time before consumers simply stop buying.

Did The Packer get it right? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.



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MEIR PERETZ    
CALIFORNIA  |  August, 27, 2012 at 08:25 PM

As a seed copmpany that develop melon varieties on a global level . I can assure you that California shippers are doing their best . Its unfortunate that they are dragged into this crisis . I encourage you to visit their operation first hand . Im not sure what do you mean by your last sentence " substantial " .

Nick Naranja    
Florida  |  August, 30, 2012 at 01:14 PM

Here comes the hammer. When private industry fails to regulate itself, the government will come in and regulate us all into paper pushers. All too often, growers treat what their producing as something other than food. Growers will gripe about doing things in their field or packing house which potentially save lives. There is a disconnect between some of the growers and their product. Growers should want to insure that their products are safe, but some would rather remain in the dark and do just the minimum to pass an audit.

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