Why didn’t they do this before? Eastern cantaloupe, mango growers now super serious about food safety

Two unrelated items from The Packer that both beg the question: what took you so long?

The formation of the Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association follows a string of cantaloupe recalls, including a deadly 2011 listeria outbreak linked to mango.dec.12cantaloupe from Jensen Farms, Holly, Colo., and an August multistate outbreak traced to Chamberlain Farms Produce Inc., Owensville, Ind.

Food safety standards adopted by the group are the subject of a Feb. 11 meeting in Atlanta. More than a dozen retailers were anticipated at the meeting.

Growers from Indiana to Florida met in Atlanta in early January to discuss food safety, agreeing to form the association.

To display the group’s seal, growers are required to maintain Global Food Safety Initiative auditing metrics which include water specifications, soil amendments and sanitation and equipment cleaning standards that exceed those mandated by GFSI, Hall said.

Audits from any third-party auditor with GFSI benchmarking is accepted in the program, and growers must have at least one surprise audit during production to ensure adherance to the association’s standards, he said.

Meanwhile, the National Mango Board is inviting growers, packers, handlers and importers to the first mango food safety conference.

A table of cantaloupe-related outbreaks is available at: http://bites.ksu.edu/cantaloupe-related-outbreaks.

Most recently, 143 people in Canada and the U.S. were sickened with Salmonella from Mexican mangoes.