By: Michael M. Landa
The growing and harvest season for cantaloupe in the United States is beginning and FDA is working with its state partners and the produce industry to make sure that this is a good, safe year for lovers of this nutritious fruit.
As FDA works on implementing the produce safety standards mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, it is essential that those involved in growing, harvesting, and distributing cantaloupe – and produce in general – follow agricultural practices that FDA and the produce industry have identified as effective in minimizing the risk of contamination.
FDA is now issuing a letter to firms that handle cantaloupe to help reduce the chance that the fruit may be contaminated by harmful bacteria. Our letter has two key messages.
First, it reminds firms to follow good agricultural and handling practices to protect the safety of their product. Second, it informs these same firms that FDA will be inspecting packinghouses over the course of the upcoming growing and packing season to, in part, assess current practices and identify conditions that may adversely affect the safety of cantaloupe.
Two major outbreaks of foodborne illness in 2011 and 2012 were associated with cantaloupe. Preventing this from happening again has been a team effort.
The cantaloupe industry has worked hard since then to revise and update its own food-safety guidelines. In California, the industry has required implementation of its new best practices via a state marketing agreement.
Our colleagues in state agriculture departments are planning their own efforts with growers to enhance cantaloupe safety.
FDA stands ready to provide technical assistance to industry and to work collaboratively with our state partners, retailers and others in pursuit of our common goal to enhance food safety.
Michael M. Landa is Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition