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The Del Monte debacle

(article, Culinate staff)

Del Monte, the fruit-and-veggie company, doesn't have a great reputation here in Oregon. Four years ago, local newspaper Willamette Week ran an investigative report busting the company for exploiting illegal immigrant labor. Now Del Monte is making national news for its aggressive attempts to resist food-safety regulation, suing the FDA and threatening to sue the state of Oregon for identifying salmonella in imported melons.

As the New York Times_ reported last week, Del Monte recalled cantaloupes last March but had a change of heart late this summer, filing the two lawsuits, accusing investigators of sloppy work, and complaining that no tests had directly connected a Del Monte melon to patients sickened with salmonella. Investigators countered that by the time a disease outbreak is typically recognized, the tainted food is usually eaten or discarded and no longer available for testing. Meanwhile, Del Monte's own filings in the FDA lawsuit raised questions about the food-safety practices at the Guatemalan farm implicated in the salmonella outbreak.

None of this, of course, has anything to do with the current outbreak of listeria in Colorado-grown melons. Sigh.