What would you do for a CANTALOUPE?

Cantaloupe – Is it Good for ya? – I didn’t think so.

Unsanitary conditions at a Holly, CO farm have been cited as the probable cause of the Listeria outbreak that has sickened more than 125 and at least 25 people have died. It was a result of the outbreak traced back in early September and led to a recall of the firm’s cantaloupes, a multi-agency environmental review of the farm’s growing, packing and cooling facilities was conducted. Representatives from the FDA and the CDC said that the review identified several unsanitary factors that “most likely contributed to the introduction, spread and growth of Listeria in the cantaloupes.”

Those factors include a faulty facility design that allowed water to accumulate on the floor near equipment and made the equipment very difficult to clean and sanitize. A regulatory inspection of the facility on Sept. 10, 2011 discovered multiple positive samples of Listeria on many different food-contact.

The government representatives said that while the farm was a registered packing facility, as required by law, no inspection had been conducted since it registered in July 2010. A third-party food-safety audit gave the farm and its facilities a clean bill of health in August 2011.

What is a Cantaloupe?

The cantaloupe derives its name from the ltalian papal village of Cantalup, where it was first cultivated around 1700 A.D. It belongs to the same family as the cucumber, squash, pumpkin and gourd, and like many of its relatives, grows on the ground on a trailing vine.

Since bacteria can grow on the surface of most melons, it is important to wash the outside of the cantaloupe thoroughly before cutting into it. Remember to refrigerate your sliced cantaloupe at 41F or below in a covered container, if you are not going to consume it immediately.

What is Listeria?

Listeria monocytogenes, commonly referred to as Listeria, is a pathogen that causes listeriosis, a serious human illness. It is unlike most other foodborne pathogens because it can grow at proper refrigeration temperatures. A person with listeriosis has fever, muscle aches and occasional gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur. Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery or infection of the newborn. BecauseListeria is abundant in nature and can be found almost anywhere, there can be a constant reintroduction of the organism into the food plant, retail setting, foodservice establishment and home. It is difficult to totally eliminate this contaminant from the food-handling environment, but the goal is to control it as effectively as possible, especially where it can contaminate ready-to-eat, refrigerated foods.

Really?

  • If the facility registered with the authority in 2010, how do you explain faulty facility? It is not like the facility was built in 1950.
  • How can a farm that shipped cantaloupes all over the USA get a clean bill of health?
  • Do they not have their own Quality Assurance?
  • If there are no accreditation standards, shouldn’t the farm deploy their own (and tougher) standards?
  • Should they be operating a hardware store instead?

Food Safety at manufacturing sites, farms should be proactive and not reactive. This farm ownership and staff will suffer because they tried to save a few dollars here and there.Ask those 25 families – who lost a loved one!

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