retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times this morning reports that “faced with a lawsuit by a major produce grower, the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday lifted import restrictions on cantaloupes from a Guatemala farm that had been linked to a multistate salmonella outbreak ... An FDA spokesman said in an e-mail that the agency lifted the restriction, called an import alert, because the company submitted an independent audit of the farm showing that it was following good agricultural practices. It also submitted tests showing that no cantaloupes were found containing pathogens.”

The Guatemala cantaloupes are not related to a listeria outbreak linked to a Colorado cantaloupe farm.

Meanwhile, the New York Times also reports that Costco is saying that “cantaloupe farmers and shippers must confront a history of food safety problems and take steps to make the fruit safe” and that “Costco would consider setting standards for how melons are grown and how they are cleaned and handled after they are picked ... the company would most likely require that suppliers test melons for pathogens before shipping them to Costco.”

As the Times reports, “On Tuesday federal officials said that there had been at least 19 previous outbreaks involving more than 1,000 illnesses and three deaths resulting from cantaloupe consumption since 1984. The current outbreak, caused by cantaloupes grown in Colorado, has sickened more than 70 people and killed at least 13, making it the deadliest food-borne outbreak in the United States in more than a decade.”
KC's View:
I would never suggest that the nation’s food safety system is as efficient and effective as it can be. Far from it. But this is clearly not the time to do anything other than redouble our efforts as a nation to be smarter about regulation and oversight.