Just when we thought it was safe to eat melons again, the CDC announced yet another outbreak among cantaloupes. This time, though, it wasn’t listeria–it was salmonella. The dangerous fruits have been linked to a farm in Indiana, but officials warn there may be more sources.
The potentially-harmful cantaloupes have been voluntarily pulled from the shelves, but there’s a good chance that some are still at large. So far, they’ve sickened over 130 people, and killed two. The CDC has advised that the fruits were initially shipped to Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin. It’s likely that they were shipped to other states, too.
Consumers are warned to look for the sticker from Chamberlain Farms Produce, Inc., which is based in Owensville, Indiana. If you’re unsure, wrap it in plastic and throw it out, or return it to the store where it was purchased. And while throwing out what appears to be perfectly good fruit seems wasteful, composting or trying to salvage unsafe melons isn’t a good idea. Salmonella is just too hard to eradicate from the home.
Cantaloupes are frequently shipped and held under not-great conditions. That puts them at high risk for cross-contamination, particularly with foodborne illnesses like salmonella. As a result, their tough rind, which consumers seldom think to wash, may be covered in bacteria and other pathogens. When the melon is cut or sliced, those harmful agents are transfered to the flesh of the fruit itself.
After last years deadly multi-state listeria outbreak, farmers in Colorado and elsewhere have taken many steps to clean up the process and render the fruits safer. Unfortunately, it seems that that precaution isn’t standard operating procedure yet.
The symptoms of salmonella are pretty much what you’d expect from food poisoning. They include include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and fever. They may present as long as three days after eating unsafe food.
If you think you’ve been exposed to salmonella, contact your health care provider. Because the CDC is still looking for potential cases to link to this outbreak, it’s crucial that citizens participate in the investigation by getting tested.
Image: eddie.welker via Flickr