As the number of illnesses and deaths linked to Colorado cantaloupe continues to climb, the state said it will promote stronger oversight of its cantaloupe industry helping farmers create a certified label potentially backed by safety training, auditing and lab testing for pathogens.
State Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar told the Denver Post the measures — now under discussion with farmers and agriculture experts — could help right the melon business after 28 deaths and one miscarriage from Jensen Farms cantaloupes.
Salazar acknowledged, though, that the state does not have new resources to fund such a certification program. A new system would rely on budget shifts or payments from the farms themselves, as other industries currently do.
• A "Colorado Proud" label, or even one specific to the Rocky Ford area, could be used by farmers who meet certain criteria.
• Standards to earn the label would include undergoing safety training created by Colorado State University, and proof of outside audits of how those safety practices are carried out.
• CSU extension facilities in southeastern Colorado are capable of lab testing; depending on the response time on results, farms could seek a pathogen-free lab test before harvest and possibly additional lab tests during the short cantaloupe shipping season.