According to the news outlet, the cantaloupe incident that occurred has been called one of the deadliest food outbreaks since the 1920s and has raised concerns over consumer safety. The farm that produced the contaminated fruit was graded as having "superior" practices just one month prior to individuals becoming ill from eating the fruit.
A private company handled the inspection, a typical practice of most audits that are required by retailers to ensure suppliers prevent food contamination. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later found unsanitary conditions at the farm that likely led to the listeria-tainted outbreak that sickened 139 people and killed 29 individuals, the news outlet reported.
"You can make these audits useful by writing them on toilet paper. Then someone would at least use them," Mansour Samadpour, president of Lake Forest Park, Washington-based IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group, a food-safety consulting firm, told Bloomberg. "They're worthless. They give a false sense of security."
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The third-party auditors get roughly $300 each for an agricultural inspection, while food-processing audits may run as much as $3,000 or more, Samadpour told Bloomberg. He noted that these individuals are the ones who are making money, removing the incentive for adequate inspection.
"If they do 20,000 to 100,000 audits a year, it adds up," he told the news source.
Food Quality News reported that federal authorities have remained tight-lipped over the potential prosecution of the Colorado farm where the outbreak stemmed from, as no charges have been made against the owners and operators of the facility.