The FDA recently announced it is conducting a year-long testing project on freshcut, also called pre-cut, cantaloupe.

In addition to testing for the foodborne pathogens of Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, the sampling “assignment” includes inspections reviewing preventive controls and identifying possible sources and routes of contamination, according to the announcement from the Food and Drug Administration.

The agency’s plan is to gather and test 240 samples of U.S. cantaloupe that has been pre-cut prior to sale to the end user, such as retailers, schools and hospitals. Sample collection is scheduled to conclude in June 2022. 

FDA inspectors are collecting the cantaloupe samples from processors, warehouses and distribution centers. Unless inspectors have reason to believe there is a need for it, testing will not be conducted on samples from packing houses, growing operations or retail locations, according to FDA.

Following the collection of the samples and laboratory testing, data analysis will be conducted. The agency is scheduled to publish a summary report, but a specific publish date has not been set.

In 2011 a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak traced to cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Colorado sickened at least 147 people, killing at least 33 of them. Ten other deaths not attributed to listeriosis occurred among people who had been infected with an outbreak-associated subtype.

The 28-state outbreak sickened people from less than one year old to 96 years old. Among the 145 ill people with available information, 99 percent, or 143, were so sick they had to be admitted to hospitals.

One way the edible portion of cantaloupe can become contaminated is during the cutting process. If pathogens are still on the rind after washing, they can be dragged into the edible flesh of the melons. Also, if cutting equipment is not properly cleaned, pathogens can contaminate it and cross contaminate the fruit.

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