FDA blames poor food safety practices in Jensen Farm's packing shed

10/19/2011 02:10:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

After spending several weeks investigating the Listeria outbreak tied to Colorado cantaloupe, the Food and Drug Administration has issued its preliminary findings.

The FDA, along with collaborators from Colorado State University and several other state and local agencies, found Granada, Colo.-based Jensen Farms failed to follow several long-held food safety practices, according to the FDA's environmental assessment.

These shortcomings in the packinghouse could provide routes for Listeria contamination, according to the FDA.

Samples pulled from the growing fields tested negative for Listeria.

But the FDA says that doesn't eliminate the growing environment as a potential contributor to the outbreak.

The FDA has identified several post-harvest practices in the packinghouse that most likely contributed to the Listeria outbreak.

• A truck used to haul culled cantaloupe to a cattle operation was parked adjacent to the packing facility and could have introduced contamination into the facility;

• The packing facility floor was constructed in a way that it couldn't be easily cleaned;

• The packing equipment was not easily cleaned and sanitized;

• The washing and drying equipment used for cantaloupe packing was previously used for post-harvest handling of another raw agricultural commodities; and

• There was no pre-cooling step to remove field heat from the cantaloupes before cold storage.

In a news release issued shortly after the FDA's findings were made public, the Dinuba-based California Cantaloupe Advisory Board pointed out the need for all growers to adhere to GAPs, or good agricultural practices.

"This situation underscores that it is tremendously important that all food producers—no matter where they are or how large or small their farm or packing operation—must be aware of and adhere to proven food safety practices to protect public health and prevent another tragedy from occurring," the board said in the release.

Read the full report at the FDA.

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