A new resource, “The National Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for Cantaloupes and Netted Melons,” is now available to help companies that grow, harvest, sort, pack, process or ship cantaloupes in developing production practices that address risk and minimize microbial hazards.
The guidance offers a comprehensive framework for ensuring the highest level of food safety in cantaloupe production. It is applicable for companies of all sizes and the use of all production practices, from primary production to the packing and transport of fresh cantaloupes.
Companies involved in the production, harvesting, packing, cooling, storage and transport of fresh, uncut cantaloupes are strongly encouraged to use this guidance to develop their own specific preventive food safety programs and practices, industry leaders said.
The guidance is the result of a yearlong collaboration among a broad coalition of committed industry and academic experts, government scientists and regulators.
Hank Giclas, senior vice president of Science, Technology and Strategic Planning for Western Growers Association, took a lead role in development of the guidance. The facilitating team also included the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, the Produce Marketing Association, and United Fresh Produce Association.
“We brought 12 to 60 individual industry, academic, government and other experts from 20 states and several countries together in virtual meetings for 26 weeks to discuss, develop and perfect this National Cantaloupe Guidance,” Giclas said. “It’s a remarkable example of industry leadership, commitment to food safety and collaborative spirit.
“The weekly meetings were made accessible to the general public. People could participate at any time and track progress via the guidance website, where notes, drafts, timelines and other materials and points of contact were maintained,” he said. “I believe we have ushered in a new era in transparency and accessibility that reduces expenses, promotes collaboration and invites all interested parties to the table.”
The focus of the National Cantaloupe Guidance website has shifted from guidance development to a resource center where the guidance document and other resources will be maintained.
The guidance is intended to be a “living document” that will keep pace with science and industry knowledge. Growers, handlers and other users are encouraged to provide comment and feedback during the 2013 growing season via the website. At the end of the season, the development group will evaluate comments, review the guidance and make changes as necessary to improve the practicality for industry and protections for consumers, Giclas said.
The guidance was released as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it will begin inspecting U.S. cantaloupe packinghouses to assess current practices and to identify conditions that could affect the safety of product on its way to consumers.
“This National Guidance is one more food safety tool that the cantaloupe industry can use right now. There is no higher priority, and it’s never been more important for everyone in the produce industry to demonstrate the highest commitment to food safety,” said Ray Gilmer, vice president of issues management and communication at United Fresh Produce Association.