Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., a subsidiary of Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., filed suit on August 22 against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to seek an injunction that would lift an FDA rule restricting the importation of wholesome fresh cantaloupes into the U.S.
Del Monte Fresh is one the largest importer of cantaloupes into the U.S. and is well known for selling fruit of the highest quality. The melons are farmed, processed, transported, and stored under state-of-the-art food safety controls that far exceed FDA regulatory requirements.
Del Monte Fresh’s claims are based on the FDA’s (and several other state health agency officials’) erroneous speculation, unsupported by scientific evidence, that cantaloupes previously imported by Del Monte Fresh from a Guatemalan farm and packing facility were contaminated with the pathogen Salmonella. In fact, neither the FDA nor any state health agency in the U.S. has offered evidence or data to support the FDA action.
”Del Monte Fresh Produce places the highest priority on food safety and protecting customers,” says Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing, N.A. of Del Monte Fresh. “We require all of our suppliers to comply with all FDA recommended food safety procedures, including the FDA’s Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, as well as the FDA’s Sanitary Standard Operating Procedures. The farm and packing facility at issue in this case was in full compliance with these food safety procedures. The restrictions imposed by the FDA on Del Monte Fresh Produce’s ability to import cantaloupes are unnecessary and not supported by the facts.”
The FDA’s actions adversely affect Del Monte Fresh’s ability to receive perishable fresh produce for sale to its customers in the U.S., as the import alert threatens the viability of a major import source for cantaloupes. Since significant resources and commitments must be finalized immediately to ensure Guatemalan cantaloupes will be ready for harvest in the near future, Del Monte Fresh is seeking immediate injunctive relief from the court.