Brent Harrison: watermelon high-risk designation not deserved

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

The Watermelon Industry is doing more than it is expected to do, yet we are forced to pay a hefty, incremental price for additional requirements that do not improve safeness. Accountability: As an industry, watermelon farmers and handlers are concerned about food safety requirements and rules as they relate to their crop. The industry is very progressive and proactive in its regular food safety practices.

The Watermelon Industry is one of the most proactive industries in its progressive approach toward food safety through the creation of its own Guidance for the Fresh Watermelon Supply Chain, which includes significant input and review with high marks from FDA.

The industry participated in a successful USDA pilot program of food safety audits with USDA auditors in Mexico in 2009. The industry created an advanced traceability process that traces individual watermelon from farm to consumer, and a process that many handlers in the industry are utilizing.

The watermelon industry is leading the produce industry in food safety practices, an advanced traceability solution at the item level, conducting its own research on rind pathogens, winning the results of pesticide residue studies, has a positive (no outbreak) track record, and yet is paying an unfair additional price due its inclusion in the high risk melon category.

Conclusions: The Watermelon Industry appreciates the opportunity to contribute to FDA?s efforts to provide information and share views that will help to inform the development of safety standards for fresh produce at the farm and packing house through strategies and cooperative efforts. Watermelon deserves to be viewed by FDA in a commodity-specific and risk-based approach to food safety.

We need FDA to put Watermelon in its rightful place as a commodity of it self. On behalf of the National Watermelon Association and the industry, I thank you for your consideration, and stand ready to validate our comments and recommendations.


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