Cantaloupes have had their problems lately. Listeria contaminated cantaloupes have sickened over 130 and killed 30, and earlier this year Del Monte’s Salmonella tainted cantaloupes sickened people in a 5 state outbreak. The industry is certainly responding, not due in least part to the many lawsuits that have been filed as a result of both outbreaks. The industry stands to lose many, many millions of dollars.
Some are really stepping up. Today, the Packer profiled the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board and California Melon Research Board, both based in Dinuba, California, who have each committed $100,000 toward research on melon safety. The goal is to collect $1 million.
“The scientists are telling us there should be two priorities,” [Steve] Patricio said Nov. 10. [Chairman of the Advisory Board] “First we need better technology for rapid testing and then we need to find effective end-process kill steps.”
But the research projects are not set in stone. Patricio said industry stakeholders are scheduled to meet in January for a “frank and honest” brainstorming session. The Jan. 11 invitation-only meeting will also include a full-on plea for research funding from growers and handlers from other regions or the U.S. and the world.
Nothing but good news for cantaloupe growers. Industry response to a history of problems has produced much positive change in the past. The seemingly endless series of leafy greens Salmonella and E. coli outbreaks, culminating in the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak, resulted in the formation of the Leafy Greens Marketing agreement. Leafy greens related outbreaks have decreaseed substantially since.
Cantaloupes have had their problems. Here is a list of 22 outbreaks that came before the cantaloupe Listeria outbreak.