The Canadian Food Inspection Agency gave cantaloupes and tomatoes a clean bill of health in September when it released results of two studies done in 2009-10.
Inspectors tested 1,414 tomato samples and 1,207 cantaloupe samples — domestic and imported — for specific pathogens. All samples returned negative results, according to summaries of the food safety studies posted on the agency’s website.
“No follow-up activities were needed,” according to the cantaloupe and tomato study summaries.
The two-year studies were part of the CFIA’s ongoing routine testing programs, according to news releases from the agency.
According to the study summaries, the objective was to collect information on “the priority hazards in various food products by conducting targeted surveys over a five-year period from 2008-09 to 2012-13. In the area of microbiological hazards in food, the targeted surveys focused on foodborne pathogens of concern in fresh produce and imported food ingredients.”
The 1,207 cantaloupe samples collected from retail stores for the study included 895 whole cantaloupes — 593 imported and 302 domestic. Researchers also tested 312 samples of imported fresh-cut cantaloupe for salmonella and shigella pathogens but did not find any.
“Cantaloupes have been identified as one of the five commodities which have contributed to increased produce-associated foodborne disease outbreaks from 1998-2006,” the study summary states.
“Cantaloupes can be contaminated during their growth, harvesting, processing, transportation and/or preparation if not handled properly. ... Taking into account these factors, cantaloupes have been selected for enhanced surveillance,” according to the summary.
In the tomato study, researchers tested for salmonella, shigella, E. coli O157:H7/NM and generic E. coli. None of the pathogens were found on any of the test samples.
The CFIA analyzed 1,414 domestic and imported tomato samples — conventional and organic — collected from Canadian retail stores for salmonella, shigella and generic E. coli. More than 300 of the samples — imported organic and conventional domestic — were also analyzed for E. coli O157:H7 and E. coli O157:NM.
Tomatoes were the second most frequent produce commodity associated with foodborne illness outbreaks in the past decade, according to the study summary. U.S.-grown tomatoes constitute about 25% of Canadian tomato imports, the summary states.