Burch Farms, the grower currently undertaking a complete recall of its cantaloupes and honeydews due to Listeria contamination, lacks third-party audits for its cantaloupe operation, and is also lacking any sort of traceability program for its cantaloupes or honeydews, according to a report published Thursday in produce industry magazine The Grower.
According to the report, industry auditor PrimusLabs previously assessed Burch Farms’ leafy greens processing and field operations, but not its cantaloupe operation, where U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials recently found Listeria monocytogenes in the farm’s packing facility. PrimusLabs was also the auditor of Jensen Farms, the grower responsible for last year’s outbreak of Listeria in cantaloupe that killed at least 33 and sickened at least 147, becoming one of the deadliest foodborne illness outbreaks in U.S. history.
Officials representing Burch Farms also confirmed that the company has traceability programs in place for some foods, but none for its melons. While the cantaloupes can be identified by red stickers that read “Burch Farms” and “PLU #4319,” the honeydews exhibit no identifying characteristics and were simply shipped to wholesalers in cartons labeled “Fresh Melons.”
Burch’s recalled cantaloupes and honeydews shipped between June 23 and July 27 to stores in FL, GA, IL, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, VA, VT and WV. The melons then may have shipped to other states by wholesalers, Burch said.
Neither Burch nor FDA could provide more complete details of where the melons were shipped, though grocery retailer Food Lion reported the melons were sent to 463 of its stores across GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, VA and WV.
Jimmy Burch Sr., owner of Burch Farms, told The Grower that the farm had not had any food safety problems in the past.
On August 3, the company corrected the variety of cantaloupe under recall in a press release. They had originally stated that the recalled variety was ‘Athena’ when it was in fact ‘Caribbean Gold.’ Read Food Safety News‘ report to see the identifying characteristics of the two different varieties.© Food Safety News