In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a letter to producers, shippers and processors of fresh cantaloupe melons urging them to ensure they follow FDA guidelines, in the wake of the listeria outbreak in the country associated with the consumption of fresh whole cantaloupes.
The letter, put together by Michael Landa of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, called for enhanced awareness regarding the agency's recommended best practices for preventing contamination of fresh produce with pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes.
"In light of this multi-state outbreak of listeriosis associated with consumption of cantaloupe, which CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has stated is the first listeriosis outbreak associated with melon, the agency believes that it is prudent to encourage members of the cantaloupe industry to review their current operations in the context of a number of FDA guidances and draft guidances that are generally relevant to preventing contamination of fresh cantaloupe with human pathogens," Landa said.
As of 25 October, there had been 139 confirmed illnesses and 29 confirmed deaths associated with consumption of the implicated cantaloupe, as reported by the CDC and the US Department of Health and Human Services.
"The agency recognises that many in the cantaloupe industry have taken actions to address food safety issues associated with the growing, handling, processing and distribution of fresh whole and fresh-cut cantaloupe," Landa noted. "This includes the industry-led development of the 'Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Melon Supply Chain' that FDA utilised in its development of the agency's Draft Melon Guide.
"The agency applauds these efforts and other cantaloupe industry efforts that are aimed at enhancing cantaloupe safety."