Steve Smith, co-owner of Trulock Fruit Co. Inc. and president of the California Melon Research Board, estimates 90% of California cantaloupe is field-packed and sent immediately to coolers.
“Research has shown that in our growing conditions there are very few, if any, pathogens present,” Smith said. “When you introduce water to the packing process you introduce a growth medium. There is also a much greater chance for cross-contamination.”
The FDA issued a letter in early November to growers and others in the cantaloupe industry that reiterates the importance of the agency’s earlier guidance. Patricio responded, lauding FDA’s attention and outlining the California plan for research.
However, Patricio and Smith both said a one-size-fits-all approach is inappropriate.
“What may be necessary in one region might be the absolutely wrong thing for another,” Smith said. “We decided we could separate ourselves or work with other regions to find solutions. We are moving forward and working together.”
Patricio said he has “high hopes” that the FDA is moving in the direction of what he calls activity-based guidance and regulations as opposed to a commodity-based approach. He said recent discussions he has had with FDA officials suggest the agency now understands that the one-size approach doesn’t work with produce.
“The new FDA is much better than the old FDA,” Patricio said.