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US: Cantaloupe industry discuss food safety
On Wednesday, members of the cantaloupe industry took part in a meeting to address food safety guidance, standards and technologies surrounding cantaloupe. The meeting, which took into account last year's listeria outbreak, resulted in a renewed commitment by the industry to focus on food safety with accountable measures planned going forward.
“Yesterday's meeting crytallized with the incidents that occurred last fall with cantaloupes,” said Bob Whitaker, chief science and technology officer for Produce Marketing Association and chair of the Center for Produce Safety Technical Committee.
“The meeting was to have an overview of what we know, regarding cantaloupe food safety, what we know about some of the pathogens that could be involved, and identifying things that we don't know.”
The meeting, which was put on by the Center for Produce Safety, joined industry members to discuss information gaps in research and food safety and to plan next steps to be taken. Participants were from across the entire industry.
“We had representation from the industry from California, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Georgia and produce interests from Central America. So we were very fortunate to have wide geographical representation,” said Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of the Center for Produce Safety.
Major themes arose concerning the need for more information about how pathogens can infect cantaloupes across the supply chain, how bacteria can survive on the surface of produce and equipment, and how to develop and validate measures to reduce microbial levels on cantaloupes.
“This is part of our ongoing endeavor to uncover information gaps,” said Whitaker.
In addition to stressing the need for more information, the meeting also produced commitments from the industry to strengthen food safety measures.
“A major outcome of the meeting was that the major and regional trade associations are taking on two very important responsibilities. There's going to be a review of all existing guidance and a plan to write new guidance specifically for cantaloupes,” said Stephen Patricio, president of Westside Produce and chair of the Center for Produce Safety Advisory Board.
“They're going to come back within two weeks,” he said, “with a plan on how that will be done.”
He added that the industry would work to develop effective guidance.
“As an industry we've learned that measurable and verifiable metrics and guidance are what we're after,” he said.
“We need to come out with proper, verifiable standards.”
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