Dinuba board to oversee cantaloupe safety program

The California Cantaloupe Advisory Board to oversee mandated food safety programThe California Cantaloupe Advisory Board to oversee mandated food safety programThe California Cantaloupe Advisory Board based in Dinuba will oversee the state's first mandatory food safety program by a commodity board.

The new food certification program was approved unanimously this week by the votes of 70 percent of cantaloupe handlers in the state.

With 100 percent of voters in support, the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board will now be amended to include the program that requires cantaloupe inspection tailored to a set of production and handling metrics while making it an unfair trade practice not to comply with the metrics.

The inspections will be performed by trained inspectors from the U.S Department of Agriculture, which also performs inspections for similar food safety programs like the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and California Tomato Farmers.

The program also expands the Board's scope to include all cantaloupes produced and marketed in California as opposed to the existing Board's organization affecting only those grown to the north and west of San Gorgonio Pass in Riverside County.

The Board is now in the process of filling additional seats created from the larger statewide focus for a total of 22 seats.

"California cantaloupes have never been associated with foodborne illness, yet the industry is unanimously in favor of a food safety program that will provide an additional layer of assurance for consumers that our product is safe," said Steve Patricio, chairman of the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board. "This program will formalize 20 years of food safety leadership by the California cantaloupe industry."

The California Cantaloupe Advisory Board was formed in 1988 as a marketing order to represent and market cantaloupe growers in the state and see to it that their products are inspected for quality and safety.

The Board now focuses primarily on research and food safety, representing 65 growers in the state that together produced 10.9 million cwt. of cantaloupes in 2010. Over 90 percent of the cantaloupes sold in the U.S. are from Central California.