It’s been a sad few weeks for many people throughout Australia as the Listeria virus outbreak from rockmelon fruit has taken the lives of up to 6 people, with more infected overall. Not only that, but the problem is exacerbated by the extremely long incubation period which is usually only about 3 weeks, but can be up to as long as 10 weeks. Aside from the loss of life, the cost to farmers who grow, and businesses who sell not only rockmelons (or cantaloupes), but all melon produce has been enormous. A single farm has in New South Wales is responsible for the current outbreak, and even though it was contained in February, and all affected melons removed from sale, the market hasn’t recovered. Trust from the public is hard to win back, as some Australian cricket players are likely to find out.
How could an outbreak such as this have taken place, and how can it be prevented from happening again? It’s a loaded question and without knowing all the facts, we might never be able to answer it. In good news though, the Australian Melon Association is implementing a raft of new safety measures which farms will have to meet or exceed to ensure that a contamination like this will likely never occur again. The risk of listeria from rockmelons currently on sale is zero, with all contaminated melons being removed and destroyed. Rockmelons have started to return to store shelves in some Woolworths stores last week, but are yet to receive the green light in Coles as they await investigation results and increased standards of supply chains.
While there is no way to know what could have stopped the outbreak from occurring, it’s clear that a process has either been missed, not been performed adequately or hasn’t even been performed. Accentis can offer farmers a solution to ensure they are performing all steps in the process correctly, to help quickly identify where any processes breakdown. Accentis Enterprise can include checkpoints within a job, so that further processing cannot continue until these set of circumstances are complete. Each process is tracked and can be traced back to who performed them and when, ensuring accountability. Each product is also able to be tracked in batches, such as a daily or weekly control, to know when and where it was sold for easy recall if required.
While the source of the outbreak on the farm has not been found and Rombola Family Farms is back in operation, it doesn’t mean you should not already start to investigate ways to improve your own business processes, whether you’re in the melon business or not. Even a business who trades in timber, metal or plastic fabrication can benefit from the ability to control each step of a process, from start to finish, will full accountability and tracking of each component through Accentis. Currently the estimated losses to rockmelon farmers alone is in the millions of dollars, all due to a single farm out of an entire industry missing a crucial step in their process. With better recording, implementation and reporting of business processes, you’re able to have more confidence in your finished product, and can account for each item that you sell.