Cantaloupe Contamination Control

The Problem

A large national grocery chain, concerned that the fresh fruits and vegetables they purchased might contain biological contaminants that could infect their customers and jeopardize their brand, asked one of their suppliers, a large U.S cantaloupe distributor, for assurance that their cantaloupes were free of biological contamination upon delivery. The distributor requested assistance from our client, a major global chemical company.

At the time, our client provided only a small portion of the crop protection chemicals to the growers who contracted with this distributor, but they were intrigued by the potential issues and possible solutions that could lead to a new business. A value-adding chain analysis of the growing, picking, and distribution process identified several potential sources of contamination. These included the grocery chain’s stores where employees handled the produce in an unsanitary way.

The Solution

Our client provided the distributor with a new process to be used by their growers that, if followed, allowed our client to certify that the cantaloupes shipped to the grocery stores were free of biological contaminants. In addition to special handling practices for store employees, the new procedure included a series of contamination prevention and elimination activities at each step in the value adding chain, from farm to store. Our client’s most significant contributions to this process had little to do with their historic role providing crop protection chemicals in the field. Instead, as a result of careful documentation of the as is process, the solution included a total change in the handling, treatment, and packaging of the cantaloupes after they were picked.

The revised process was accepted by both the distributor and the grocery chain. However, at the time, our client was not willing to incorporate the new offering in their portfolio, accepting instead a larger position in crop protection chemical sales and assisting other service companies in commercializing the process.

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