Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. has filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a federal court in Maryland alleging that the agency lacked an adequate factual basis after a Salmonella outbreak in early 2011 to conclude that the company’s Guatemalan cantaloupe supplier was the source of the contamination. Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. v. United States, No. n/a (U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Md., filed August 23, 2011).
On the basis of that conclusion, FDA allegedly demanded that the company issue a recall or “suffer the consequences of an FDA consumer advisory questioning the wholesomeness of Del Monte cantaloupes.” The agency also imposed an import alert under which Del Monte is prohibited from importing cantaloupes from its Guatemalan source without proving the fruit is “negative” for Salmonella and other pathogens. According to Del Monte, “this prohibition will continue indefinitely into the future unless enjoined by this Court.” The company alleges that the Guatemalan farms supplying its cantaloupes follow all applicable food safety procedures and that FDA had no evidence, even after testing, that the farms were the source of the Salmonella outbreak. Del Monte also questions whether the outbreak was linked to cantaloupes, because one person who fell ill had evidently not eaten any.
Alleging arbitrary and capricious action, agency action in excess of statutory jurisdiction and agency action without following proper procedures, Del Monte asks the court to set aside the import alert, permanently enjoin FDA from implementing or enforcing it and declare that the alert is unlawful.