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Companies that produce, harvest, pack and transport fresh, uncut cantaloupes now have a new resource to better ensure food safety, particularly as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration begins inspecting cantaloupe packinghouses to assess current practices and to identify conditions that could affect the safety of product on its way to consumers.
“The National Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for Cantaloupes and Netted Melons” is available for free download.
The guidance offers a comprehensive framework for ensuring the highest level of food safety in cantaloupe production. It is applicable for companies of all sizes and the use of all production practices, from primary production to the packing and transport of fresh cantaloupes.
The document is the result of a yearlong collaboration among a broad coalition of industry and academic experts, government scientists and regulators. More information about the development of the guidance can be found online.
Hank Giclas, SVP of science, technology and strategic planning for Western Growers Association, took a lead role in developing the guidance. The facilitating team also included the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, the Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association.
“We brought 12 to 60 individual industry, academic, government and other experts from 20 states and several countries together in virtual meetings for 26 weeks to discuss, develop and perfect this National Cantaloupe Guidance,” Giclas said. “It’s a remarkable example of industry leadership, commitment to food safety and collaborative spirit."
“The weekly meetings were made accessible to the general public. People could participate at any time and track progress via the guidance website, where notes, drafts, timelines and other materials and points of contact were maintained,” Giclas added. “I believe we have ushered in a new era in transparency and accessibility that reduces expenses, promotes collaboration and invites all interested parties to the table.”
According to Giclas, the guidance is intended to be a “living document” that will keep pace with science and industry knowledge. Growers, handlers and other users are encouraged to provide comment and feedback during the 2013 growing season via the website. At the end of the season, the development group will evaluate comments, review the guidance, and make changes as necessary to improve the practicality for industry and protections for consumers.