As a produce manager for a small grocery chain I have a question regarding the condition of cantaloupe. I rejected some organic cantaloupe because it had what appeared to me as a blackish mold on the outer portion of the melon. The buyer called me and stated there was no problem as it was due to pollination and not mold per se. I had been told that the mold was generated from improper cooling and I should not sell them to my customers. I know you have not seen the melons I rejected; however, I was hoping you can give me some insight so I can ensure safe and quality product to my customers. (A.J.)
It is generally irresponsible to comment on the rejection of a delivered load of produce with such limited information. However, superficial mold development on cantaloupes, either conventional or organic, is not uncommon following handling injuries (particularly scuffing or abrasion to the netted rind, and especially combined with improper or inadequate cold chain management. Blackish to blackish-green mold, typically Alternaria spp, will invariably develop over time on cantaloupes, sometimes first observed at the stem scar where nutrients are exuded at the moment of "slip" or harvest. Other dark or "sooty" molds may be present on the surface of cantaloupes (and many other leaves and fruits) due to insect (aphid, leaf hopper, etc) feeding activity leaving nutrient laden deposits on the rind. Whatever the cause, the primary questions become; Is the product quality reduced? Is the product safe to eat? Will consumers buy the melons anyway? There are no Yes/ No answers to any of these questions. Most likely the edible flesh is unaffected if the mold is truly superficial, however, all but the dedicated or bargain-conscious consumers are unlikely to pick up and then purchase an even partially moldy melon.