FDA has released its environmental assessment inspection report on the factors that potentially contributed to the contamination of fresh whole cantaloupe linked to a multi-state outbreak of salmonellosis in the summer of 2012. According to the report, the initial contamination of the cantaloupes likely occurred in the production fields and was most likely spread by operations and practices in the packinghouse. It is also likely that the contamination proliferated during storage and transport to market.

FDA recommends that fresh fruit and vegetable producers employ good agricultural and management practices recommended for the growing, harvesting, washing, sorting, packing, storing, and transporting of fruits and vegetables sold to consumers in an unprocessed or minimally processed raw form.

Recommended practices for fresh fruit and vegetable producers are set forth in FDA’s and USDA’s “Guidance for Industry: Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables,” FDA’s “Guidance for Industry: Letter to Firms that Grow, Harvest, Sort, Pack, Process, or Ship Fresh Cantaloupe,” and FDA’s “Guidance for Industry: Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Melons; Draft Guidance.”

FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network (CORE) coordinated the environmental assessment as part of its three-pronged approach to detect, respond to, and prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness. CORE is made up of a signals-and-surveillance team, three response teams, and a post-response team.  The post-response team uses environmental assessment inspections to identify the factors potentially contributing to an outbreak.