Brent Harrison: watermelon high-risk designation not deserved

06/02/2010 12:26:31 PM
Tom Karst

FDA is completely committed to commodity-specific and risk-based processes. In that vein, to keep Watermelon in the Melon category is a contradiction to the commodity-specific goal of the FDA and the Obama administration.

The USDA oversees U.S. Standards for Grades of fruits and vegetables, and has Watermelons, Cantaloupes and Honey Dew melons separated as a result of their differing profiles and uniqueness in a commodity approach. FDA should follow the same commodity-specific approach as USDA to reflect the risk-basis of each commodity.

Watermelon and Melons are in the cucurbit family, the Cucurbitaceae. However, they are in different genera. Watermelon is Citrullus lanatus, and Melon is Cucumis melo. Melon is also known as muskmelon; but that term has been also used to describe a type of melon with netted rind. (Munger, H.M. and R.W. Robinson, 1991 Nomenclature of Cucumis melo L. Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative Report 14:43-44).

As an example of the proper separation of commodities, Onions and Green Onions are separated into two commodities. Yet, they share more commonalities through scientific classification than Watermelons and Melons. The only scientific classification difference between the onion commodities is Species.

Watermelon and Melons differ in three areas; Tribe, Genus and Species. The important difference between the Onion commodities is that Green Onions have a history of food borne illness outbreaks and separated from Onions in a proper risk-based, commodity specific approach.

With more differences between them, Watermelons should be separated from melons. In a commodity-specific and risk-based approach to food safety, Watermelon is one of the safest crops produced for consumers throughout the World. Consumers buy commodities, like watermelon and cantaloupes, not categories.

They know that they can purchase a watermelon and trust the safeness and healthiness of our fruit. FDA?s risk-based approach may want to focus on true melons that have the risk profile and outbreak record, like Cantaloupes, and not waste valuable resources on a safe, healthy crop such as Watermelon.

FDA has verified that watermelon has no industry-related outbreaks on record. Even with a positive record, the Watermelon Industry has been very proactive in its progressive approach toward food safety through the creation of its own Guidance for the Fresh Watermelon Supply Chain, which included input and review with high marks from FDA. The industry participated in a successful USDA pilot program in food safety audits in Mexico. And, we created an advanced traceability process at the item level that many in our industry are utilizing.


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