In an unprecedented move for the state’s produce industry, California cantaloupe handlers have elected to adopt a mandatory food safety plan as part of an effort to restore consumer confidence in the cantaloupe market, which has suffered following two nationwide foodborne illness outbreaks linked to these melons in the past two years.
In 2011, a Listeria outbreak that sickened 147 people in 28 states and killed 33 was linked to cantaloupes from Colorado. The following year, Salmonella linked to a farm in Indiana sickened 261 people in 24 states, killing 3.
While neither of the outbreaks was linked to California cantaloupes, sales of the melon have dropped significantly nationwide, an effect that has hit the Golden State hard. A full 75 percent of the cantaloupes consumed in the U.S. are grown in California.
Now California cantaloupe producers intend to give consumers a reason to trust their product.
“Beginning this year, California cantaloupe farmers and shippers of all sizes will be operating under the only mandatory food safety program that requires government audits of all cantaloupe production activities,” said Steve Patricio, a California melon producer and chairman of the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board (CCAB), which represents all of the state’s cantaloupe producers.
The new standards for the state’s cantaloupe producers include 156 checkpoints, all of which must be met in order for a handler to pass the program’s audits, which will be conducted by inspectors from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
“CCAB is using government auditors instead of private inspection companies to ensure accountability, uniformity and consistency of audits throughout the California cantaloupe industry,” said Patricio in a Wednesday press release.
A list of California cantaloupe handlers subject to these mandatory audits is available on CCAB’s new website, www.californiacantaloupes.com. A copy of the audit checklist and more information about the new cantaloupe food safety program, including the guidance document, can also be found on the site.
Earlier this year, a national cantaloupe safety program called the National Cantaloupe Guidance was launched after a year of development by industry, scientists, consumers and regulators. The Guidance offers best practice recommendations for cantaloupe producers.
For more background on the California cantaloupe food safety program and the National Cantaloupe Guidance, see Food Safety News’ past coverage:
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