Commercial cantaloupe growing and shipping is serious business.

We’ve seen deadly consequences when growers and shippers don’t follow strict food safety guidelines. So it’s good to see the growth of the Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association.

Membership has doubled since it was founded last year, and grower members now represent about 4,500 of the 10,000 acres of cantaloupe grown east of the Mississippi River. Its executive director said at an early March meeting that it hopes to double membership again by next year.

To be a member, growers must meet food safety rules established by the association, which include unannounced audits to check their compliance in order to maintain certification through the association.

The association encourages retailers to buy only from certified growers, and several retailers attended the meeting and offered support.

We’ve seen buyers work with growers who commit to stronger food safety, such as the spinach outbreak and the formation of the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement last decade.

It’s takes buyers who are as committed as growers to food safety to make such a system successful.

It would be a shame if the “lure of local” leads buyers to work with less serious cantaloupe growers when the weather turns warm this spring and summer.

Food safety is an investment that both sellers and buyers need to make if they want to establish credibility with consumers.

Cantaloupe grower-shippers may not be able to weather another outbreak from carelessness.

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