Listeria monocytogene, which is present in the environment, made its way into the packingshed.
Moist conditions created by a dripping condensation line provided optimum conditions for bacterial reproduction.
In addition, the packing line was designed for potatoes, not cantaloupe, and couldn’t be properly sanitized, according to Schneider.
Had the equipment been designed for cantaloupe, a daily sanitation program would most likely have caught the pathogen before it had a chance to form the protective biofilm, he said.
“Routine sanitation is paramount,” Schneider said. “That’s where a problem like Colorado went from a non-issue to a huge problem.”