“Nearly a month after potentially contaminated melons were withdrawn from commerce, the media is generating headlines and creating unprecedented hysteria about the safety of cantaloupes,” Patricio said. “Not only is this doing nothing to protect public health, but it’s severely damaging California and other cantaloupe growing areas that have been the leading food safety activists for the last 20 years.”
Thousands of harvest workers and support personnel are seeing their season cut short by three weeks because of the outbreak, Patricio said.
“Three weeks may not sound long to a year-round employee, but to someone who feeds their family by working seven days a week for the 15-week season, it’s a 20% pay cut.”
Bill Bishop, chairman of Willard Bishop LLC, Barrington, Ill., said that despite signs in his local Jewel store making clear that the retailer’s cantaloupes did not come from Jensen Farms, fruit was not moving.
In some outbreaks, it’s relatively easy to contain the damage, Bishop said.
The Jensen Farms outbreak, however, is one that has worked on the public imagination in a way that is stubbornly impervious to facts.
“It’s having a crushing effect,” he said. “I wish I knew how to pull out of a tailspin like this, but I just don’t see it.”