Michelle Danyluk, food safety researcher and assistant professor at the University of Florida, discussed the inspection May 9 during a Web seminar sponsored by the Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association and the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.
She said the owner was notified May 3 and the inspectors were at the facility on May 6 and 8.
The inspections are in response to the deadly multistate outbreaks linked to cantaloupe in 2011 and 2012, according to a letter posted Feb. 25 by the Food and Drug Administration. Presenters for the seminar said they believe the agency will only be testing for listeria.
FDA officials said May 9 they could not identify what facilities had been inspected. They plan about 50 packinghouse visits this year.
“State officials will be notified in advance of the inspections and will be invited to join,” said FDA spokeswoman Catherine McDermott. “Environmental sampling will be done during the course of the inspection visits, but the number of swabs is determined by factors such as the type and size of the operation.”
McDermott said FDA investigators will complete a questionnaire based on observations and discussions with the responsible parties at the facility, but a copy of the questionaire “is not publically available at this time.”
The agency will collect cantaloupes from each operation for testing, McDermott said.
“Some of our members have reported that retailers have said not to ship them any fruit packed while FDA was present and collecting samples until they get an all clear,” Oleson said.
Danyluk recommended packinghouses consider holding fruit regardless of customer demands to avoid possible recalls in the event of positive test results. She also recommended packers reduce the amount of fruit they run while FDA inspectors are present.
“You might want to consider running only half of what you would normally pack,” she said.
Danyluk also suggested packers reduce volumes of fruit stored in coolers prior to an FDA visit.
Georgia officials expect three to eight inspections, Oleson said. Danyluk said she was told North Carolina officials are expecting three inspections.