Saturday, August 11, 2012


Having followed food product contamination and recalls for many years, I am aware that recalls are fluid: they often change over time. The first announcement about a contaminated food product is frequently an understatement. It is not unusual for the recall to expand over a period of days or weeks. And, sometimes even the wrong product is identified. So much for keeping us safe!

Take the case of the current melon recall by Burch Equipment LLC, North Carolina in the U.S. The first recall announcements on July 28 and August 2, 2012 said that the Athena variety of cantaloupes were likely to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Then, on August 3, it was announced that it was the Caribbean Gold variety of cantaloupes that were being recalled. The Athena variety were fine. Now, on August 10, honeydew melons were added to the list. What's next?

As for the size of the recall - it started with 580 cases of melons. Then another 13888 cases (9 melons each) plus 581 bins (110 cantaloupes each) were added. Plus all these honeydew melons (I don't know how many). I tried to calculate the number of melons, but either the FDA's math is wrong or mine is. Either way, the recall has shown a huge expansion. It may now also be a nationwide recall.

The cantaloupes and honeydew melons were sold to distributors between June 23rd and July 27th, in the following states: FL, GA, IL, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, and VA, VT and WV. But, the company and the FDA acknowledge that the melons may have further been distributed to retail stores, restaurants and food service facilities in other states as well.

Now you can see why I always suggest you draw a wide "avoid" circle around a food product being recalled, until things are sorted out. (After writing this, I think I am going to toss out the two cantaloupes I bought today in California - just in case).

To your good health,

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