Del Monte Sues FDA Over Cantaloupe Import Ban

In response to a <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">Salmonella outbreak linked to its cantaloupe, Fresh Del Monte is now suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in an effort to reduce restrictions the agency placed on the fruit imports in the United States this season.

The Packer noted that Del Monte Fresh is one of the U.S.’s largest cantaloupe importers; Del Monte Fresh is a subsidiary of Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. According to a recent press release, Del Monte said the agency’s action “threatens the viability of a major import source for cantaloupes,” said The Packer.

In March, we wrote that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a multi-state Salmonella poisoning outbreak that was linked to tainted cantaloupe which sickened 13 people in Oregon, Washington State, California, Colorado, and Maryland. Three people required hospitalization in that outbreak, which was linked to the Salmonella Panama strain.

Del Monte Fresh Produce recalled nearly 5,000 cartons of cantaloupe over concerns about Salmonella contamination. The recalled melons were distributed from a Del Monte’s farms in Asuncion Mita, Guatemala, via wholesale warehouse Costco clubs in seven western states.

The release also indicated that Del Monte Fresh accused the FDA and state health agency officials of what it described as “erroneous speculation, unsupported by scientific evidence” over allegations that the cantaloupes Del Monte imported from the Guatemalan farm were contaminated with the dangerous Salmonella pathogen, wrote The Packer.

The lawsuit was filed by Del Monte Fresh on August 22 following the release of the FDA’s July 15th import alert.

According to the FDA alert, the source of the Salmonella contamination likely occurred by irrigating fields with sewage-contaminated water, processing produce with Salmonella-contaminated water, harvest and pack workers’ exhibiting poor hygienic practices, maintaining animals close to the product or its water sources, and/or inadequate cleaning and sanitizing of equipment in contact with the product.

Fresh Del Monte officials say that, “In fact, neither the FDA nor any state health agency in the U.S. has offered evidence or data to support the FDA action,” wrote The Packer, citing the release.

“The farm and packing facility at issue in this case was in full compliance with these food safety procedures,” said Dennis Christou, Del Monte’s vice president of marketing, in the release. “The restrictions imposed by the FDA on Del Monte Fresh Produce’s ability to import cantaloupes are unnecessary and not supported by the facts,” Christou added, wrote The Packer. The firm seeks an immediate injunction to resume imports.

The CDC notes that people suffering from Salmonella poisoning—known as salmonellosis—usually experience symptoms beginning 12 to 72 hours after becoming contaminated. Symptoms may include fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea and usually last 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without antibiotic treatment; however, diarrhea can be very severe, and hospitalization may be required.

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