Echoing 1989's infamous cyanide grape scare which cost Chilean fruit shippers an estimated US$210m, the FDA has – in one fell swoop – cast a shadow over a country's entire agricultural industry by issuing an import alert in March on cantaloupes supplied by Honduran grower-exporter Agropecuaria Montelibano (Agrolibano).

Its actions are open to criticism on a number of levels. Firstly, and most fundamentally, it has failed to provide any credible evidence implicating Agrolibano in the outbreak. Secondly, it ordered a mandatory recall despite having no legal authority to do so. Thirdly, it made no effort to tailor the recall to a specific farm or packinghouse, preferring instead to condemn Agrolibano's entire operation. Finally, even if Honduran melons did prove to be the source of the salmonella, the outbreak was already on its last legs by the time the FDA had issued the import alert.

If you'll pardon the clichés, having closed the stable door after the horse bolted, the FDA then proceeded to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Agrolibano is far from a fly-by-night operator. A reputable supplier to the likes of Dole and Chiquita, the grower-exporter is GlobalGAP, Primus Labs and Agrisafe certified. But when the chips were down, none of this was enough to prevent the FDA from riding roughshod over its reputation. What message does that send out to other growers about the value of accreditation?

It's not just Agrolibano that has been harmed, but the entire Honduran melon industry – and that of neighboring countries too. The fallout in terms of lost jobs and income within such a critical sector of the economy cannot be overstated. The fallout will be felt for months – if not years – to come. Long after the story ceases to make headlines in the US. And for what? The FDA has achieved a sum total of nothing in terms of halting the spread of the most recent outbreak but its impact on the Honduran agricultural sector could be potentially devastating.

Isn't it time the FDA was called to account?