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Salmonella recalls touch cantaloupes and watermelons

by Brian Gaylord | November 26, 2009
Two recent voluntary recall episodes involve the same customer of two separate produce companies, according to Rex Lawrence, director of sales and marketing for Davis, CA-based Timco Worldwide Inc.

Mr. Lawrence also said that findings of possible Salmonella contamination of Timco watermelons and cantaloupes from Brawley, CA-based Five Crowns Marketing were determined at the same testing lab used by the customer linked to the two produce companies.

Five Crowns Sales Manager Daren Van Dyke confirmed to The Produce News that the same customer and testing lab were involved in both instances. The customer and lab were not identified to The Produce News.

Timco sent out a press release Nov. 22 saying that it was recalling a limited number of its large seedless watermelons after the "potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by a distribution company, which revealed the presence of Salmonella on the outside rind of a melon randomly selected for testing."

The release went on to say that no illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this occurrence, which was still was the case when The Produce News spoke with Mr. Lawrence Nov. 24.

Timco's large seedless watermelons included in this voluntary recall were distributed to select grocers, wholesalers and processors in California and Texas. The watermelons were stickered with the "MelonUp!" label with PLU No. 4032 and UPC No. 0 33383 40240 6.

Timco's release said that the company "elected to exercise an abundance of caution and initiate the recall in the interest of public health."

In speaking with The Produce News Nov. 24, Mr. Lawrence said that Timco was "surprised" by the finding and that the incidence of Salmonella contamination in watermelons is "extremely rare." He said that until this incident, the 25-year-old company had never been connected to such an occurrence.

Mr. Lawrence told The Produce News that the episode involved 832 cartons of watermelons that were distributed to seven customers. As of Nov. 24, some 600 cartons had been accounted for and destroyed by Timco's customers, he said.

In the case of Five Crowns Marketing, the company issued a release Nov. 20 that it was "voluntarily recalling cantaloupes packed under the 'Majesty' label because of a potential health risk due to possible contamination of Salmonella."

Five Crowns also said that no illnesses had been reported to date, which was still the status Nov. 24 when The Produce News spoke with Mr. Van Dyke.

The Five Crowns release said that the recall came "after a lab analysis conducted by a consignee on a lot of cantaloupes packed by Five Crowns Marketing on November 4, 2009, resulted in a confirmed positive for Salmonella."

A retest of the lot and sample in question came up negative, Mr. Van Dyke said. He noted that what tested positive was not shipped anywhere and was destroyed.

Harvest and shipping dates from Nov. 4 through Nov. 13 indicate that the cantaloupes have passed through the distribution chain. The cantaloupes in the identified lots were harvested and shipped to wholesalers, retailers and foodservice operators in Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Cantaloupes were packed in various sizes with and without individual label stickers. All cartons carry the "Majesty" label and are further identified with lot Nos. 198-1 or 198-3 and packed dates of Nov. 4, Nov. 6 or Nov. 10. The cantaloupes that contain stickered labels are identified by the "Majesty" label.