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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Burch Equipment seems not to know its Listeria Cantaloupe

Facts:

1. It is only 11 months since the Jensen Farms cantaloupe outbreak that sickened 147 with likely 37 dead.

2. The USDA’s Microbiologic Data Program (MDP) prompted the original recall, which leads to an inspection of Burch, which lead to the recall of more cantaloupes.

3. It appears that Burch did not know what cantaloupe it shipped.

Conclusions:

1. Burch must not have received the memo that cantaloupes and Listeria are not a good combination.

2. Microbiologic Data Program (MDP) makes sense because it prompts recalls and inspections that find unsanitary conditions.

On August 3 Burch of North Carolina, sent out its third press release regarding Listeria and cantaloupe. It is now correcting the variety of cantaloupe involved in recalls initiated on July 28 and August 2. Testing done by the USDA’s Microbiologic Data Program (MDP) prompted the July 28 recall. The August 2 recall occurred after FDA investigators found unsanitary conditions at the Burch cantaloupe packing shed.

athenaimage001.jpegCaribbeanimage004.jpegPrevious announcements incorrectly identified the cantaloupes as being the Athena (left) variety. The cantaloupes affected by the recall are the Caribbean Gold (right) variety. Athena cantaloupes are not subject to the recall.

Burch recalled 580 cases of cantaloupes on July 28, and recalled an additional 13,888 cases of cantaloupes (9 cantaloupes per case) and 581 bins of cantaloupes (110 cantaloupes per bin) on August 2, due to the potential for being contaminated with Listeria. Melons affected by this recall total 188,902.

The whole Caribbean Gold variety cantaloupes were shipped between July 15th and July 27th and distributed in FL, GA, IL, MD, ME, NC, NJ, NY, PA, SC and VA. A red label reading Burch Farms referencing PLU # 4319 identifies the whole cantaloupes. Burch Farms grew all cantaloupes involved in the recall, however some of the cantaloupes may have been identified with a “Cottle Strawberry, Inc.” sticker referencing PLU #4319. Cottle Farms is not involved in this recall. Cantaloupes from Burch Farms were shipped in both corrugated boxes (9 cantaloupe per case) and in bulk bins.

Thankfully, there have been no illnesses reported to date.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

  • Paul F Schwarz

    Remember the incubation period is up to 70 days. I wonder what the processing was like? What about inspections? Was there an inspection? We deserve answers! We don’t need another listeria outbreak like almost a year ago.
    I still miss my dad and always will.
    Paul A Schwarz
    December 18, 2011
    Section 51 row 1 Grave 3 Ft Leavenworth/Leavenworth National Cemetery

  • Minkpuppy

    From this case, it’s obvious that many players in the produce industry are not learning from others mistakes. Unless they were living in a total vacuum, Burch had to have known about the Jensen Farms fiasco. I suppose it is possible they were living in a vacuum–I’ve run across food safety managers in the meat industry that are totally clueless about current recalls and outbreaks. (Typical response: “Oh, I get the emails but I just delete them. I don’t have time to read them…”–Yikes).

    I have a food safety manager colleague that works with produce almost exclusively. He’s still tearing his hair out because his employers don’t get it when it comes to the idea that produce is a risk. There’s still an attitude of “It won’t happen to us” whenever an outbreak occurs. And people wonder why we need food safety regulations. Sheesh.

  • Walt

    Minkpuppy is on target. Putting your head in the sand only plugs up your ears too.