Michael Doyle, the director for the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia who has advised the FDA on food safety issues, said the lawsuit could set a dangerous precedent.
“More often than not the public health authorities and the epidemiologists are correct,” Doyle says. “If you start putting public health officials in the crosshairs of the lawyers it’s probably going to have a major dampening effect on whether foods are recalled in time to prevent a substantial amount of illnesses.”
Del Monte conducted a voluntary recall of the cantaloupes, imported from a farm in Guatemala, in March after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA determined they were linked to 12 cases of salmonella poisoning. In July, the FDA went a step further and issued an import alert, halting imports of the cantaloupes from Guatemala.
In a suit to get a court to lift the alert, filed Aug. 22 in federal court in Maryland, Del Monte said cantaloupes from the targeted Guatemalan farm represent almost a third of the cantaloupes they import. Del Monte complained the FDA officials based their decision on “erroneous speculative assumption, unsupported by evidence.”