Del Monte sues FDA over cantaloupes

Rare lawsuit could discourage regulators from taking appropriate steps to protect consumers

After the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) halted imports of cantaloupes from Guatemala out of concern the fruit may be contaminated with salmonella, Del Monte Fresh Produce filed suit against the agency. This type of suit is rare, and some experts believe the threat of litigation could make the FDA more reluctant to step in when it has concerns over the safety of food going to market in the U.S.

Del Monte filed its suit Aug. 22 in federal court in Maryland asking that the FDA’s restriction on Guatemalan cantaloupes be lifted. The company, which is the largest importer of cantaloupes in the U.S., stated in its filing that it gets one-third of the cantaloupes it sells from Guatemala.

In March, Del Monte had issued a voluntary recall of some of the cantaloupes it imported from Guatemala because those fruits had the potential to be contaminated with salmonella. But the company said the FDA’s restriction of Guatemalan cantaloupes is not based on any scientific evidence the fruit is actually dangerous.

"Responsible government agencies must be careful to protect public confidence and not inflame public fears by making statements about the safety of a particular food product or producer without sufficient evidence or without conducting a reliable investigation," Dennis Christou, a vice president at Del Monte, said in a statement.

The FDA has declined to comment on the pending litigation. 


Cathleen Flahardy

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