The southwest Indiana farm that is the source of the salmonella-contaminated cantaloupe remains unidentified. Health officials traced the salmonella to the source by the middle of last week, but have declined to release the name of the farm.
In the meantime, stores, including Wal-Mart and Schnuck’s groceries, have removed cantaloupes sourced from southwest Indiana from their shelves. It’s a sensible act designed to keep their customers from getting ill and it’s based on the little information they have. However, it also punishes all southwest Indiana farmers for the actions of a single farm.
Learning from the Past
My initial reaction to the second cantaloupe recall of 2012 was to ask, “Didn’t they learn anything from last year’s cantaloupe recall by Jensen Farms?” But then I found this list of cantaloupe recalls put together by Kentucky State University. It seems we have several cantaloupe-related recalls each year.
Food safety begins on the farm. Fifteen farmers in the Rocky Ford area of Colorado – the area where Jensen Farms was located – have joined together and hired a full-time food safety manager. They’ve changed other practices as well, such as paying pickers by the hour, instead of by the number of melons picked, and using a central packing shed with up-to-date packing equipment and procedures.
Food Safety at Home
The farm at the center of the salmonella cantaloupe contamination has agreed to stop distributing cantaloupes for the rest of the season. However, since not all farms have modern safety measures in place and the chronically underfunded FDA doesn’t have enough inspectors to get to every farm, we can be certain there will be more outbreaks in the future.
For cantaloupe, always scrub the uncut melon with a vegetable brush under running water. 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.
Cantaloupe slices on a plate photo via Shutterstock