Cantaloupe Safety Symposium at Colorado State University Will Dig into Key Food-Safety Issues

Colorado State University on April 24 will host a Cantaloupe Safety Symposium that will compare findings from recent multistate outbreaks of Listeria and Salmonella in cantaloupe, and will provide insights into proposed regulations that would require federal inspections on farms and at produce-packing facilities.

The Cantaloupe Safety Symposium: Moving from Response to Prevention is part of CSU’s work advancing the science and knowledge of food safety, as well as best practices for avoiding foodborne illness from farm to fork. The symposium is designed for farmers, researchers, students and public-health professionals.

“We’re trying to broaden this to be a farm-to-table approach with food safety,” said Marisa Bunning, symposium planner and an assistant professor in the CSU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. “That’s the approach that needs to be taken, targeting every aspect of the food chain to reduce the risk of contamination and illness.”

Speakers represent multiple disciplines and both the public and private sectors:

• Lawrence Goodridge, food microbiologist and associate professor in the CSU Department of Animal Sciences. Goodridge has applied his knowledge in meat safety to investigate and understand the pathogens involved in multistate outbreaks of Listeria monocytogenes infection from Colorado cantaloupe in 2011 and Salmonella infection from Indiana cantaloupe in 2012. Goodridge specializes in the development of novel methods to detect and control the spread of dangerous foodborne pathogens. He assisted state and federal investigators in tracking the 2011 outbreak that killed 33 people and sickened 147, and the 2012 outbreak that killed three people and infected 261.

• Devin Koontz, public affairs specialist for the Denver District of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Koontz will discuss the FDA’s proposed rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act. In January, the federal agency published the first of its proposed rules, related to produce-safety standards and preventive controls for human food. Koontz will outline these proposed regulations and their application to fruits and vegetables.

• Michael Bartolo, research scientist and manager of the CSU Arkansas Valley Research Center. Bartolo, who works closely with farmers in Colorado’s Arkansas River Valley, was a key boots-on-the-ground researcher during the Listeria outbreak of 2011. He was a respected liaison between growers and investigators, and since has helped melon growers respond to the crisis with preventative food-safety strategies on their farms and in their packing houses.

• Michael Hirakata, a Colorado cantaloupe grower and packer, helped form the Rocky Ford Growers Association in response to the Listeria outbreak of 2011. The association has taken proactive steps to promote on-farm food safety and to verify the quality and safety of their produce. In an effort to set and maintain standards, the association recently trademarked “Rocky Ford Cantaloupe”; association members label their melons as part of a campaign to boost consumer trust in their products.

• Ryan Friedman, regional manager for food safety and quality assurance at Sysco, a global food wholesaler. Friedman is an expert in issues related to cold-temperature regulation in the produce supply chain, a critical food-safety issue in the packing, shipping and storage of cantaloupe.

• Three CSU graduate students, James Peth, Rachel Scanlan and Brandon Thompson, also will discuss their research.

The Cantaloupe Safety Symposium: Moving from Response to Prevention is sponsored by CSU’s Graduate Program in Public Health and the Center for Food Safety and Prevention of Foodborne Disease within the Colorado School of Public Health; the school is a cooperative venture of CSU, the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Colorado Denver- Anschutz Medical Campus.

The symposium will run 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 24 in Lory Student Center, Room 230. Attendance is free; lunch is included. Register at