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California Cantaloupe Growers Call For More Oversight

Aired 1/12/12 on KPBS News.

California Cantaloupe growers are calling for stricter food handling procedures and government oversight in the wake of a fatal listeria outbreak in September linked to a Colorado farm.

— California Cantaloupe growers are calling for stricter food handling procedures and government oversight in the wake of a fatal listeria outbreak in September, which was linked to a Colorado farm.

Thirty people died, and more than 100 were hospitalized after tainted cantaloupe hit the market this past fall.

A congressional investigation released this week found the farmer ignored food safety guidelines, and that allowed the tainted cantaloupe to reach consumers. Farmers already plan to reduce the amount of acreage devoted to growing cantaloupes this year, and they want tighter food safety rules.

Industry leaders met to talk about the future in San Diego this week.

California Cantaloupe Growers Call For More Oversight
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"It almost seems that there's a perfect storm of events," said Bob Whittaker of the Center for Produce Safety. "That there's a contamination event and there was something that perhaps allowed that contamination to increase to a level that was high enough that it would make somebody sick."

Growers and shippers think government oversight will help insure that food safety guidelines are followed.

"For the Industry I think it's reassuring that these are things we know that we can work with. That we can probably accomplish through better communication, and better outreach," said Whittaker.

The industry is preparing for consumer backlash.

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