Following the earlier outbreak from Listeria in cantaloupe melons there is now an outbreak from Salmonella typhimurium also linked to cantaloupe melon according to a report in Just-Food. This has resulted in 2 fatalities and 141 affected consumers and is linked to a grower in southwestern Indiana, USA. The product has now been withdrawn from the marketplace and recalled, with the farm agreeing to the cessation of supply for the rest of the growing season, according, in that report, to the CDC (US Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre).
This has turned into a tragic and expensive situation. Tragic because of the (in all likelihood) preventable deaths and expensive as all recalls from market, and consequent brand damage, usually turn out to be.
What can be learnt for the future?
Well in many ways the lessons should already have been learnt. Continuity of food safety within the supply chain rests with each link in that chain and communication, cooperation and importantly, verification, within that chain. The question each link needs to ask itself is…”how safe are my suppliers?” The only sure-fire way to know is to perform a food safety audit of that supplier. No one would suggest that a fruit grower must implement precisely the same food safety control measures as a high risk ready to eat food manufacturer (such as cooked, chilled meat products). But some level of control must be there to prevent unnecessary contamination of the food that would render t unfit for sale or consumption. And so how might one conduct such an audit? The key is for someone with a decent level of HACCP and food safety knowledge to go in with an inquisitive mind. By all means use a food safety procedures and records checklist for the audit, but never at the expense of good old common sense inquisitiveness.
The alternative of course is to demand the pre-existence of a certification standard such as Global GAP (a food safety standard for primary producers) or even the BRC Global Food Safety Standard where some level of on-site processing takes place – this may even include just washing.