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Australian Melon Association

Australian melon sales reduced by 90% in light of Listeria outbreak

The Australian Melon Association (AMA) is reassuring growers that it acted quickly and appropriately following a listeria outbreak.

Last month a New South Wales' rockmelon grower was identified as the source of the bacteria, and all affected product has been removed from the supply chain through a Trade Level Recall, both in the domestic market and export markets. AMA Industry Development Officer Dianne Fullelove says the industry took swift action.

"When we found out we had a problem, we asked all growers in the eastern states who were supplying rockmelon to have microbial tests done on their fruit" she said. "The tests were put on the melon industry website, so growers could prove to buyers that their product was safe. We haven't come out with a big marketing campaign as we simply don't have the budget."

Ms Fullelove says she understands growers' concerns that the business linked to the outbreak has not been publicly named.

"We have requested that the (NSW) Food Authority name the grower," she said. "The Food Authority are the only people with the full facts. To everyone else it's just hearsay. No one has seen test results."

Last Thursday, the industry met with wholesalers and retailers, which included the major supermarkets down to the fresh produce markets to discuss initiatives to "kick start" the industry.

The AMA says everyone is really supportive of the melon industry, and among the short term plans growers will be sent checklists to ensure their systems are stronger than ever, with a failure in the HACCP-based food safety system the most likely cause of the outbreak.

They will also have access to a Research and Development funded project, with food safety experts supporting the on-farm systems in the future.

"To regain consumer confidence we have to go above and beyond what we were already doing," Ms Fullelove said.

But the main message to consumers is that all Australian rockmelon currently available for sale, both domestically and export are not implicated in this outbreak. No other businesses have been implicated in the recall or have any association with the affected business.

"The impact on other melon businesses has been severe with sales reduced by more than 90 per cent," she said. "A lot of fruit is unpicked in fields and will have to be dumped as there is no market for it. This has had an adverse flow-on effect to the regional communities that rely on these farms. This incident has caused a severe impact on our export markets with a number of countries raising concerns. We want to reassure importing countries that all affected fruit has been removed from the supply chain.

For more information:
Dianne Fullelove
Australian Melon Association Inc
Phone: +61 413 101 646

Publication date: 3/13/2018
Author: Nichola McGregor
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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