Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. has filed a notice of dismissal in a Maryland federal court after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed to lift the import alert it imposed on cantaloupes from Guatemala that had purportedly been linked to a Salmonella outbreak. Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. v. United States, No. 11-02338 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Md., dismissed September 27, 2011). Additional details about the case appear in Issue 407 of this Update.
According to an FDA spokesperson, the agency lifted the restrictions on the basis of a company submission that included an independent audit showing that the Guatemalan farm was following good agricultural practices and tests indicating that none of the farm’s cantaloupes were positive for Salmonella. Public health advocates had reportedly called the lawsuit a bullying tactic, and Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Caroline Smith DeWaal said, “We would certainly hope that FDA has proof that the conditions that may have led to the outbreak have been cleaned up.”
Meanwhile, deaths linked to Listeria-contaminated cantaloupes from a farm in Colorado are continuing to rise; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reportedly confirmed 13 deaths and 72 illnesses from the nationwide outbreak. Hundreds of pounds of the fruit have been recalled and the farm has ceased production and distribution in what federal officials have called the deadliest foodborne disease outbreak in more than a decade. Costco has reportedly indicated that it is considering setting melon-handling standards and is likely to require suppliers to test the fruit for pathogens before shipping them to the company. The company’s head of food safety has apparently called on the industry to research best practices for washing or cleaning cantaloupes to remove contaminants. See The New York Times, September 27 and 28, 2011; USA Today, September 29, 2011.