Manufacturing News / Food Safety

Cantaloupe Listeria contamination calls for FDA control of US auditors

As with any outbreak, the Jensen Farms Listeria outbreak last summer and fall, which sickened 148 people in 28 states and killed 30 people, probably could have been prevented if Jensen Farms had maintained its facilities in accordance with existing FDA guidance. According to conclusions drawn in a January 10, 2012 report from an investigation conducted by the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Committee Staff, “In the case of cantaloupe processing, FDA has no specific regulations, only guidance.” (For more on the outbreak, see “Cantaloupe contamination attributed to packing facility—not fields,” on FE’s web site under the Food Safety section.)

Besides the issues already discussed in an FDA report dated October 19, 2011 on contributing factors to the Listeria contamination, FDA officials told the House committee that new processing equipment installed in 2011 and the decision to use a packing and washing technique involving non-chlorinated water were two probable causes of the outbreak. Both of these significant changes were implemented at the packing facility in 2011, according to the House report. In 2010, the processor used a chlorinated wash treatment, and there were no reported contamination issues prior to the recent Listeria contamination.

According to the House report, the processor, after a behest from its distributor, contracted with Primus Labs to perform audits in August 2010 and in July 2011. Primus Labs subcontracted with Bio Food Safety to conduct both audits. The two audits were not conducted by the same personnel. In the second audit, Jensen Farms earned a 96 percent grade despite issues with wood on the unloading and packing tables, lack of hot water hand wash and open facility doors during operating hours. The auditor, however, did note on the front page of the survey that Jensen Farms did not use an antimicrobial wash.

According to the House report, FDA does not regulate domestic third-party auditors and did not review the recent Jensen Farms audits while conducting its investigation. With respect to imported foods, the Food Safety Modernization Act requires that FDA establish an accreditation system and model auditing standards for third-party audits. According to industry observers, these standards will influence domestic auditing standards as well.

For more information, download the House report.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

IPPE 2015

The 2015 International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) was held in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center, Jan. 27-29. More than 30,000 poultry, meat and feed industry representatives attended the event to interact with the 1,288 exhibitors on the show floor that covered more than 490,000 net square feet. At the show exhibitors demonstrated innovations in equipment, supplies and services utilized by firm in the production and processing of meat, poultry, eggs and feed products.


Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

Food Engineering

Food Engineering March 2015 cover

2015 March

In this March 2015 issue of Food Engineering, we explore how a surprise FDA audit could be serious if you're not recording key data.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Plant Facility/Site Issues

What issue about your current plant facility/site keeps you up the most at night?
View Results Poll Archive


Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.


FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.png linkedin_40px.pngGoogle +

Food Master

Food Engineering Food Master 2015Food Master 2015 is now available!

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit to learn more.