According to a news source, Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc. has indicated, as part of its campaign to counter allegations that its cantaloupes, imported from Guatemala, were tainted with Salmonella, that it intends to sue the Oregon Health Authority and a public health official for making “misleading allegations” about its products. Company Vice President Dennis Christou reportedly said, “These statements were made despite the lack of a substantive factual basis for the allegations and the failure to adequately investigate the true source of the contamination.” Information about litigation Del Monte filed against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), seeking to lift an import alert related to its Guatemalan cantaloupes appears in Issue 407 of this Update.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has criticized the company for taking action against government agencies, stating in a press release, “FDA and Oregon used state-of-the-art techniques to identify the food item, and a lawsuit like Del Monte’s could have a dangerous chilling effect on the willingness of public health officials to recall foods or ban unsafe imports for fear of retaliation in court. Consumers should be outraged that Del Monte is using the courts to fight for its right to sell food that might be tainted.” CSPI’s comments were echoed by former FDA assistant commissioner David Acheson, who said, “If this case is successful from an industry perspective, it will change the attitude of regulators. They will obviously be more reluctant.” See Law 360, August 30, 2011; CSPI News Release and CBS News, August 31, 2011.