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Media Misinformation And
Confusion Over Cantaloupe ‘Alert’

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, March 28, 2008

Plenty of consumer media outlets wound up with egg on their faces when, as we mentioned in FDA Fumbles Again On Cantaloupe ‘Alert’, they started reporting a Dole recall that was actually done in 2007!

To find out what actually happened we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to investigate:

William (Bil) Goldfield
Communications Manager
Dole Food Company
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

Q: Could you clarify what actions Dole has taken regarding the FDA alert on cantaloupes imported from the Honduran grower? There are all these media reports circulating on the Internet that appear to be spreading misinformation.

A: All the information being reported that Dole has done a recall is erroneous. A reference to a Dole recall of cantaloupes from Costa Rica is all based on last year’s recall and is completely inaccurate.

Q: Have you tracked all product that could be out in the market?

A: Yes. We’re still putting together a formal release, once we find out the status.

We’re still waiting to see what to do next. We haven’t issued any recall yet.

We saw this alert and said we better let everyone know about this. I’m reading the same information as you. I don’t know to what extent Salmonella was found or where they found it.

Q: Any ideas on why the erroneous reports were published?

A: We did have a melon recall in 2007, and somebody put this together with the new cantaloupe issue and erroneously tied bits and pieces of information together.

I’ve seen T.V. reports saying Dole did a recall of cantaloupes in Costa Rica prompted by the FDA alert on cantaloupes from Honduras. It’s peculiar.

There hasn’t been a recall issued from the FDA at this point.

We do have product from this grower. We haven’t received a lot. We’re going from the alert to retain the product we have, and telling retailers that may have it in their warehouses, ‘don’t put it out on the shelves’, and they haven’t.

What is intriguing about our conversation with Bil is three things:

1. The total lack of communication to even the biggest players by the FDA.

2. Enormous confusion by everyone in the industry as to distinctions between recalls, import alerts, product withdrawals and other such matters.

3. Dole had a recall on Costa Rican melons in 2007 also related to salmonella. There was no “cause” ever found. The melon growers of Costa Rica are not using secret techniques they hide from their friends in Honduras. As far as we can see, there is no reason at all to think that the melons from Costa Rica are safer than those from Agropecuaria Montelibano, a Honduran grower.

Shouldn’t the FDA be obligated to explain itself?

Many thanks to Bil Goldfield for taking the time to help the industry better understand this situation.

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