Produce industry groups announced on Wednesday the publication of national food safety guidelines for cantaloupes, a start-to-finish guide developed through industry collaboration to advise growers on the best current cantaloupe-growing practices to avoid contamination of microbial pathogens. Cantaloupes have made headlines in recent years for being the source of two major foodborne illness outbreaks: the 2011 Jensen Farms Listeria outbreak, and the 2012 Chamberlain Farms Salmonella outbreak. Together, those two outbreaks killed more than 30 people and sickened hundreds more. Despite those recent tragedies, produce industry leaders involved with the guidance say it was not inspired by any particular outbreak or event, but more of an agreement among industry leaders that cantaloupe growers needed more assistance elevating the safety of the commodity across the board. And now, a little more than a year since their first meeting, the groups have released a 39-page document for farmers that covers everything along the production process — from worker health to traceability programs. The production of the guidance was chiefly organized by Hank Giclas, senior vice president of Science, Technology and Strategic Planning for the Western Growers Association. Giclas and several other organizers held virtual meetings with dozens of industry, academic and government experts over six months to identify and share the best practices for every step from farm to fruit salad. The ultimate goal, Gilcas said, is to help every cantaloupe grower ensure they use the best possible practices to keep pathogens out of their operations. “We’re trying to communicate to folks that it’s important to look at their unique operations and identify the hazards relevant to their melon production and handling,” Giclas told Food Safety News. “There’s a need for guidance in the industry right now, particularly as it relates to some of the newer knowledge about vulnerabilities to Listeria and other pathogens.” The guidance will serve as a complement to the cantaloupe-growing guidance already published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Ray Gilmer, vice president of Issues Management and Communication for United Fresh Produce Association. Two more guidance documents — one by the California cantaloupe industry and one by the Eastern U.S. industry — are due out in the near future. “These initiatives by the industry are an effort to work together to make sure every cantaloupe grower in the U.S. knows how to minimize contamination on their crops,” Gilmer told Food Safety News. During the year of development, the guidance evolved for the public to see and comment on at Now, that website will shift to become a resource center where farmers are encouraged to visit and continue commenting on how the guidance works for them, offering commentary and critique to influence future drafts. “I was really impressed by the breadth of engagement we had across the industry during the development,” Giclas said. “I’ve worked on a lot of these efforts and not many have seen such broad and deep industry involvement.” Giclas said he hoped that industry members would carry that same level of interest into the next iteration of the guidance. “We’re encouraging people to familiarize themselves with the guidance — look at it in the context of their food safety systems,” he said. “Go to the website, provide feedback and critique. The goal is to improve, refine, and ensure it’s productive for the industry.”