One of the largest retailers in the US has called on the country's fresh melon sector to get tougher on food safety following a major outbreak of listeria poisoning linked to cantaloupes grown in the state of Colorado.
The New York Times quoted Craig Wilson, head of food safety for leading warehouse retailer Costco, as saying the cantaloupe industry needed to step up checks and testing on its produce and making its fruit safe.
A total of 16 people in 18 US states are known to have died so far as a result of the outbreak, with more than 70 people taken ill in what is now being described as the deadliest case of food-related disease in the US for over 10 years.
"I don't think the cantaloupe industry can continue on doing the very same thing and expecting a different result," said Wilson.
"It's time for companies to get more aggressive. If they know this is going to happen, let's step up and not let it happen."
US government officials confirmed that an investigation into food safety practices at Jensen Farms, a producer in Granada, Colorado, was continuing.
The grower, which produced and packed cantaloupe melons linked to the outbreak, has recalled all of its Rocky Ford-branded fruit.
The officials said that only melons from Jensen Farms had made people sick and that other cantaloupes were safe to eat.