Last year at the end of the season, Southeastern Growers Association, Kenly, N.C., updated its cantaloupe packing line to all-stainless steel and this year is the first season that the company is using the new equipment. James Sharp, grower and salesman at the Growers Association, said this “ensures the customers that Southeastern Growers is doing everything possible as far as food safety is concerned.”
Other companies are making similar changes to ensure the safety of their product. In 2013, Jackson Farming Co. transformed its open packing shed to an enclosed cantaloupe packing facility.
“Our job in the industry is to make changes when needed and learn how our practices could affect this industry,” said Matt Solana, vice president of operations and supply chain at Jackson Farming Co.
Because of food safety issues in the cantaloupe industry over the past several years and with the Food Safety Modernization Act moving forward, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Raleigh, N.C., put together a pilot program for cantaloupe growers in the state and Jackson Farming volunteered to be a pilot farm.
“We took into account all of the team’s input, the scientific information derived from previous issues in the industry, the Food Safety Modernization Act proposed rules and the Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association’s guidelines and made a conscious decision to upgrade our facility to be the safest we could,” Solana said.
T.C. Smith Produce, Seven Springs, N.C., also completed a new stainless steel cantaloupe packing line in its cantaloupe packing room and used it for the first time last season.
The company wanted to improve food safety any way that they could.
Solana said that the reason stainless steel is being implemented is because it is easier to clean and sanitize than regular steel because rust on regular steel can be a potential area where pathogens can grow.
“We will continue to make adjustments as new scientific information becomes available,” said Solana. “The bottom line is that we want to continue growing and selling cantaloupes and we want to make them as safe as they can be.”