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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak Cause – No Mystery Here

This FDA report sounds like most, if not all, FDA and FSIS reports on food manufacturing facilities the casue outbreaks.

Introduction:

There could have been low level sporadic Listeria monocytogenes in the field where the cantaloupe were grown, which could have been introduced into the packing facility

A truck used to haul culled cantaloupe to a cattle operation was parked adjacent to the packing facility and could have introduced contamination into the facility

Spread:

The packing facility’s design allowed water to pool on the floor near equipment and employee walkways;

The packing facility floor was constructed in a manner that made it difficult to clean

The packing equipment was not easily cleaned and sanitized; washing and drying equipment used for cantaloupe packing was previously used for postharvest handling of another raw agricultural commodity.

From the FDA Warning Letter:

During the inspection, we also collected environmental swabs from various locations and surfaces throughout your packing facility. FDA conducted laboratory analyses which determined that 13 of the 39 total environmental swabs were positive for outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes. PFGE analysis determined that eleven of the positive swabs matched the strain of Listeria monocytogenes represented by cluster #2, one positive swab matched the strain of Listeria monocytogenes represented by cluster #4, and one positive swab matched the strain of Listeria monocytogenes represented by cluster #3. Further, one swab was positive for a strain of Listeria monocytogenes that did not match any of the outbreak strains. These positive swabs were taken from different locations throughout the washing and packing areas in your facility, all of which were either food contact surfaces or areas adjacent to food contact surfaces. This significant percentage of swabs that tested positive for outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes demonstrates widespread contamination throughout your facility and indicates poor sanitary practices in the facility.

Growth:

There was no pre-cooling step to remove field heat from the cantaloupes before cold storage. As the cantaloupes cooled there may have been condensation that promoted the growth of Listeria monocytogenes.

FDA’s findings regarding this particular outbreak highlight the importance for firms to employ good agricultural and management practices in their packing facilities as well as in growing fields. FDA recommends that firms employ good agricultural and management practices recommended for the growing, harvesting, washing, sorting, packing, storage and transporting of fruits and vegetables sold to consumers in an unprocessed or minimally processed raw form.

And, what do you have – over 100 sickend and over 25 dead.