The entire season’s worth of honeydew melons and cantaloupes grown and processed by Burch Farms has been recalled after the FDA found listeria on both a honeydew and a cantaloupe. No illnesses have been reported in connection with this recall.
The recall began on July 28 when the New York Microbiological Data Program found listeria on a cantaloupe. Initially, only about 5000 cantaloupes were recalled from a specific range of processing dates. On August 2, the recall was expanded to more than 200,000 cantaloupes, still from Burch Farms. This weekend, honeydew melons were included in the recall.
Burch Farms is a 2500 acre farm in North Carolina. They grow both organic and conventional produce. The honeydew and cantaloupe are not organic.
The source of the listeria contamination has not been identified. While listeria has been found on a honeydew melon and a cantaloupe, the only information we have about the farm is that “unsanitary conditions” were found in the packing shed by the FDA.
Cantaloupe Safety At Home
As consumers, we depend on the farmers, processors, and shippers to keep our food safe. Washing fresh produce before we serve it to our families is obvious, but melons can be especially difficult to clean, since the rinds are uneven.
Whether you get cantaloupe from a grocery store, farmers market, or your own garden, you need to observe basic safety techniques. Listeria is a soil bacteria and any produce can pick it up.
Store the melon on the counter for a few days, if it needs ripening, or in the fridge to keep it fresh for up to a week.
Wash the uncut melon under running water and scrub it with a vegetable brush. Clean any surface the unwashed cantaloupe came into contact with. When arranging slices, be careful not to let the outer rind touch the edible inner portion. Even though you’ve just washed the melon, it’s possible to miss spots.
Food Safety Resources for Farmers
It’s important for producers to educate themselves. Unfortunately, there are few standards for third-party inspectors. Last year’s cantaloupe recall was set in motion when Jensen Farms received flawed advice from a third-party inspector.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service has an Illustrated Guide to Growing Safe Produce on Your Farm (also available in Spanish).
Contact your local extension service to find out more about processing safety. If you’re a member of a farmers market association, they might also have information.
Cantaloupe photo via Shutterstock