An audit conducted by a third-party auditor before the recent listeria outbreak failed to find listeria at Jenson Farms a few days before the farm shipped the listeria-contaminated cantaloupes around the country. The third-party auditor gave the farm a score of 96 on its safety. The auditor noted a few things the farm was doing that could potentially create unsafe conditions, but did not dock the farm’s score.
The nearly-perfect score from the third-party auditor right before listeria-contaminated cantaloupes from the farm sickened dozens and killed at least 25 people, had led food safety experts and others to question whether the food safety auditing industry itself needs to be regulated by the FDA. A recent article in The Denver Post discusses this issue thoroughly.
The FDA itself reviewed the farm in September and found numerous problems with the farm’s safety that could have led to the growth of bacteria. The FDA said that the farm did not pre-cool melons before storage, which is an industry standard. Putting the melons in storage right after gathering them from the field and washing them can lead to the growth of bacteria.
Another problem with the farm’s handling of the melons was that they stopped adding chlorine to the water used to wash the melons. Listeria can occur in soil and the chlorine is meant to kill bacteria on melons.
Source: The Denver Post, “Private audit at Jensen Farms before listeria outbreak failed to flag woes,” Michael Booth, Oct. 21, 2011