(Nov. 29) The first of several commodity-specific food safety guidance documents was released Nov. 28 by the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association and the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.

The “Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Melon Supply Chain” was developed by a group of leading produce food safety experts and provides food safety guidance for the entire melon supply chain, according to officials from PMA and United. The document was available on both organizations’ Web sites.

The melon document is to be followed up by commodity-specific guidance for lettuce, tomatoes and green onions/herbs, said Jim Gorny, vice president of quality assurance and technology for United.

Gorny said the documents for lettuce and tomatoes may be ready by the first quarter of 2006, with green onions/herbs expect to follow soon after.

Gorny said the melon document provides highlights of food safety guidance for the entire supply chain, complemented by links to other resources.

”The document really hits the core issues related to production and post-harvest handling, processing, retail and foodservice handling,” he said.

Kathy Means, vice president of government relations for PMA, said the melon document was 35 pages long and should be considered in the food safety plans of all elements of the melon supply chain.

“It has everything you need from farm to table,” she said.

Commodity-specific guidance was jointly developed by the two leading industry groups in response to FDA concerns about foodborne illness outbreaks linked to particular commodities.

Means said she believes the document will prove to be of interest to producers and handlers.

“It was something that is needed and covers the entire supply chain,” she said. “We cannot encourage more strongly that anyone in the melon supply chain take a look at the document and use it in their operations,” she said.